Alumni Profile: Lucy Johnson

Fulfilling Her Dream of Earning a Master’s Degree 36 Years After Starting the Program

Lucy Johnson with her master’s committee members Jon Schommer, Bruce Benson and Ruth Lindquist
Lucy Johnson (second from right) with her master’s committee members Jon Schommer, Bruce Benson and Ruth Lindquist

This past May, Lucy Johnson successfully completed her master’s degree program in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. While this accomplishment is noteworthy by itself, it’s her journey that got her to this point that’s remarkable.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the College of Pharmacy in 1981, Johnson enrolled in the college’s then two-year master’s program and residency in hospital pharmacy. Though she completed her residency and all the coursework, as well as published original research, she had some incomplete grades when the two years were up.

“When I came to the end of my residency, I realized that my goals in life had changed,” said Johnson. “Originally, I sought a master’s degree in order to someday obtain a position in a professional organization. Then during my residency, my goals changed again and success for me was defined as becoming a director of a hospital pharmacy.”

Additionally, in 1982 she married a fellow pharmacist, Jeff Johnson (BS 1980), and a year later the first of their seven children was born.

After she completed her residency at United and Children’s Hospitals, Johnson remained there as a part-time staff pharmacist until 2009, when she chose to work at Children’s Hospital.

“For the past 36 years, I have worked in almost every area of hospital pharmacy, including helping set up off-site clinic pharmacies, and working in both inpatient and outpatient, decentralized and centralized.” said Johnson. “Additionally, I strongly believe in grassroots leadership and empowering people to be the best that they can be. I love working with student pharmacists and technicians and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.”

Though she was happy in her career, Johnson says the disappointment of not completing her master’s had stayed with her over the years.

The deciding factor for her to return to her master’s studies: a conversation she had two years ago with one of her former teachers and role model and mentor, Bruce Benson.

“During the course of our conversation I mentioned that it has always bothered me that I never finished my master’s. He simply asked why I hadn’t. I said, because it’s been over 30 years. His reply was, ‘So?’”

After learning that she could take some classes to make up for her previous courses that had been marked incomplete, Johnson took her first class in spring 2016.

“Returning to the University was exciting,” said Johnson. “My son was a senior at the U at the same time I went back, so we often met for lunch.”

She continued, “Coming back, I was a little out of my element, but the graduate students encouraged me, supported me with technological issues, and gave me constructive feedback when I needed it. I was invited to attend the college’s Phestival of Nations multicultural event, which was truly an eye-opener. The college has become much more global than when I first attended, and the richness this brings is important. It serves to underline how small a world it truly is and how we have more similarities than differences.”

Another big change since she first began her master’s program in 1981 is the use of the internet.

“The technology available today is both amazing and overwhelming,” said Johnson. “For one class, we Skyped with a professor who called in from Brazil — in live time. One of my assignments was to do a digital story. In 1981, if I wanted to do a literature search, I would go to the library. Today, it’s all done online.”

After completing six courses she describes as “amazing,” Johnson successfully defended her master’s in Social and Administrative Pharmacy and graduated on May 5 — 36 years after she first started.

“Thanks to Bruce Benson, I have learned ‘never say never,’” said Johnson. “Never give up on your dreams or goals, but be flexible. Sometimes the journey of life takes a detour, sometimes it takes you to a much better destination. Don’t be afraid to take a risk or to try something new.”

When asked what advice she would give to other students, Johnson says, “Appreciate the gift of your education at the College of Pharmacy. Close your computers and put away your phones when you’re in class. There is so much wisdom in the room with the professors and the other students. Take advantage of that; be fully present.”