White FHU Logo
White FHU Logo

Henderson, Tennessee — (Feb. 13, 2024) — Roy Johnson, often described as a humble and generous man, accepted his honorary doctorate with gratitude at a special ceremony held during the Freed-Hardeman University 88th Annual Bible Lectureship Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024.

“This is the greatest honor that I have ever received,” Johnson remarked. As a member of FHU’s President’s Council and Executive Director of Lads to Leaders, an organization dedicated to developing youth leadership, biblical knowledge and Christian service, Johnson’s dedication has spanned more than 30 years. He has also been a regular speaker during the university’s annual lectureship. “I am humbled to be honored with this distinguished award from Freed-Hardeman University. I want to thank President Shannon and the Freed Hardeman University Board of Trustees.”

During a special reception held for Johnson Wednesday evening, he spoke of the honor’s meaning to him. “In our lives I think we have a handful of what I call ‘landmark days.’ One of mine was when I obeyed the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; another landmark day was when I married my sweetheart, Brenda. Another landmark day was when my sons were born, and you’ve given me another one — a day I’ll never forget. Thank you for giving me a super landmark day,” Johnson said.

FHU President David R. Shannon expressed that honoring Johnson was an easy decision. “We are privileged to recognize Roy, whose passion for youth, dedication to leadership and unwavering commitment to Christian service have left an indelible mark on countless lives,” he stated. “He is a true champion of faith, servant leadership and his extraordinary work with Lads to Leaders.”

Under Johnson’s leadership, Lads to Leaders has become the largest leadership training program in churches of Christ for the past 21 years, expanding from two conventions to 10 in the United States and five in other countries.

Six students who earned their Red Coats during their last year in Lads to Leaders, attended the reception to honor Johnson. Following the reception, three of the students shared what the experience meant to them.

FHU freshman Jack Hamilton spent six years in Lads to Leaders and said Johnson is an inspiration. “I had an internship with Lads to Leaders, and it gave me the motivation to pursue my goals of entrepreneurship,” Hamilton said. “I was given a variety of experiences in leadership and public speaking during my time in Lads to Leaders.”

FHU sophomore Sarah Pollock was active in Lads to Leaders from kindergarten through 12th grade. Pollock, a secondary math major, said her time in the organization helped her develop friendships, Bible knowledge and public speaking skills.

FHU senior MacKenzie Scarborough also spent kindergarten through 12th grade in Lads to Leaders. For her final community service project, she organized a Thanksgiving meal for individuals in need and provided a take-home meal and toiletries. “My church congregation helped me, but my experience in Lads to Leaders was life changing for me. It really taught me how to use my faith to impact others.”

Johnson is a sought-after speaker, addressing more than 100 churches, civic organizations and events annually. With a professional career spanning 50 years as a first responder with the Hollins Fire and Rescue, Johnson embodies servant leadership.

Rhonda Zorn Fernandez, daughter of Dr. Jack Zorn and Johnson’s niece, was excited about her uncle’s honor. As a long time Lads to Leaders board member, she works with Johnson and spoke of being proud of his endless determination, wisdom, work ethic and passion to develop youth into spiritual leaders. “This recognition is well deserved. The world is a better place due to his efforts,” Fernandez said.

Dr. Justin Rogers, Dean of the FHU College of Biblical Studies, commended Johnson’s life’s work. “Roy has tirelessly poured himself into the nonprofit world of training young people for leadership,” Rogers stated. “The untold thousands of lives he has influenced will be revealed only in eternity.”

Johnson and his wife, Brenda, have been married for 43 years and have three sons, all serving as first responders. They are the proud grandparents of 10.

The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees. More information is available at fhu.edu.