Portland Native Honored for Helping Keep Hope Shining Bright

The city of Portland, Ore., recently recognized Terry Johnsson with the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award. Johnsson, a Portland native, is Adventist Health's Pacific Northwest Region vice president of mission integration. The award recognizes Johnsson for his commitment to helping communities triumph beyond struggles and challenges.

Johnsson was the first African American from Oregon to serve as a U.S Air Force Presidential Honor Guard at the White House, where he served three presidents. His passion for service began as a teenager when he joined Adventist Health Portland’s volunteer department as the hospital’s first male candy striper. Johnsson’s commitment to improving the quality of life for others shows in his passionate focus locally, regionally and nationally.

“I am humbled, grateful and honored to be chosen for the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Johnsson. “I have always been inspired by Dr. King’s example of making this world a better place for generations to come. It remains my lifelong calling.”

As a child, Johnsson suffered from an extreme case of dyslexia and was told he would never succeed in life as result of his inability to be an effective communicator. Johnsson beat the odds and went on to earn two undergraduate degrees, a master's degree and a doctorate degree.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. reverberate in Johnsson’s mind — “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” Most recently, Johnsson founded a nonprofit high school mentoring program called Student Healthcare Leaders. His goal is to help young people identify their talents and provide high school students an exposure to the world of health care.

His passion for helping youth clearly stems from his own journey as a teenager. Through his work at Adventist Health, Johnsson is providing high school students with mentors who can help expand their minds by exposing them to hundreds of occupations within health care and by encouraging them to identify their strengths in helping others.

“Having witnessed Johnsson’s sacred calling for nearly a decade, I am very proud of his accomplishments in helping transform lives while creating healthy communities,” says Joyce Newmyer, Adventist Health Pacific Northwest Region president. “His faith-based, heart-led approach to sacred work continues to guide and inspire us in addressing opportunities in the communities we serve."

Johnsson received the award at Portland's annual Keep Alive the Dream program, one of the largest community-based celebrations in the United States. The event, hosted by the World Arts Foundation, gives voice to the heritage citizens’ struggle for peace, social justice, civil rights and human dignity.

Johnsson is married to Kara Johnsson, pastor of the Sunnyside Church in Portland. Click here to hear more about Johnsson’s story visit.

Featured in: March 2018


Judy Leach

Adventist Health Pacific Northwest Region vice president of strategy activation and communication