This past week we learned of the passing of Dr. John E. Johns. Dr. Johns had been president of Furman University for eighteen years, from the 1970’s through the early 1990’s. He was president while I was an undergrad, and when Laura first started teaching at Furman.
Dr. Johns’ tenure was marked by ever increasing pressure from conservative forces within the South Carolina Baptist Convention to exert control over the university. This pressure included threatening a tenured professor with firing because he was a Christian Scientist, changing rules as to appointment of board members, and threats to make professors sign statements of faith as a condition of employment. Laura remembers that during her interview, Dr. Johns asked, "Honey, have you ever met a Baptist?", to which she replied that she was one (at the time.) Dr. Johns led the university to its ultimate separation from the Convention prior to his retirement.
My best memories of Dr. Johns are associated with football. During my sophmore year, he joined us in our dorm room to watch the Super Bowl in TV, staying for the entire first half while a party was going on at his house. Secondly, he was known for creating the university’s most notorious cheer.
The myth goes that during one home game the students called Dr. Johns down to lead a cheer. While at Stetson, he had been familiar with a cheer using the school’s initials that started out "SU one time!", and decided that would work for Furman. The following was the result…
FU one time!
FU two times!
FU three times!
FU all the time!
It became tradition to call Dr. Johns down during the third quarter of the game to lead the cheer. However, after Dr. Johns retired, Dr. Shi felt uncomfortable leading the cheer, and the tradition faded. Laura and I had suggested that it would be great to do the cheer at this weekend’s game in memory of Dr. Johns. Perhaps that would have helped avoid the disasterous loss to Wofford.