The dedication of the Joel and Elizabeth Johnson Center for Health and Wellness was a highlight of Hamilton's 2018 Fall Weekend. The building, in the center of campus near the Beinecke Student Activities Village, is named for Joel W. Johnson ’65, P ’93 and his wife Rev. Dr. Elizabeth B. Johnson P’93, for providing the leadership gift that made this new facility a reality. Although the Center is not entirely complete, a crowd of parents, alumni, and faculty attended the dedication to celebrate this new space and thank the Johnsons for making it possible.

The Johnson Center for Health and Wellness demonstrates Hamilton College’s commitment to enhancing the well-being of its students by providing resources that help set the foundation for a healthy and productive life.

In her dedication remarks Dean of Students Terry Martinez said, “This space will serve as a home for students to think about their physical and emotional wellness, and how they are inextricably linked together with their academic success, social success, and for them personally as well.” The facility’s staff will be equipped to address a wide variety of issues such as relationships, substance use and abuse, body image, and self-confidence.

Ground was broken for the 14,150-square-foot, two-story facility in August 2017, and final move-in is expected to be Thanksgiving week. Before the groundbreaking, it was decided to expand the building from the original 13,186-square plan to provide more space for  counseling on the second floor.

Life Trustee and longtime friend of Joel Johnson, Jeff Little ’71, shared some of his experiences with the Johnsons and spoke of their leadership, foresight, and wisdom.

 “Joel is distinguished looking, a straight-talker, and fiscally conservative. He always says exactly what he means to say in support of a position, even if it is unpopular. I am sure those are qualities that have helped him become a very successful CEO and corporate board member,” said Little.

Following Martinez’s and Little’s opening remarks, President David Wippman invited Elizabeth and Joel Johnson to cut the ribbon as their extended family stood beside them for pictures. After being handed the scissors, Joel joked that the last time he cut a ribbon was for a hotdog plant in the Philippines for his company, Hormel Foods.

Elizabeth Johnson, a licensed psychologist and ordained minister, discussed the importance of support services and the lack of mental health awareness that she experienced when she was a college student at Wellesley. She recounted the experiences of her friends, Trudy and Fey, who dropped out after facing tough times in their lives. “The assumption on the part of college administrators back then was that the student just did not have what it takes to be college student. Parents also had no idea how to help,” said Elizabeth.

I want to issue a challenge to our students: please use this facility and its staff to help you find enduring solutions to the stresses and struggles you experience at Hamilton College.

Joel Johnson gave the closing remarks by first thanking the key people who were involved in creating the Center for Health and Wellness. “I would like to thank past president Joan Stewart, who saw to it that Beth and I would have an interest in developing a Health and Wellness Center, and President David Wippman and Dean Terry Martinez who are clearly excited about the center and will make sure that its potential will be realized; Karen Leach, Vice President of Finance and my co-conspirator in many tough financial decisions on the hill for the past two decades. Karen’s dedication to the school is an inspiration for me, and all of our trustees,” said Joel.

Joel Johnson also thanked Director of Counseling David Walden and Director of the Health Center Barbara Fluty for articulating the functional needs of the building. He also expressed appreciation to the architects, landscapers, and construction workers who brought the facility out of the ground.

“I want to issue a challenge to our students: please use this facility and its staff to help you find enduring solutions to the stresses and struggles you experience at Hamilton College,” said Joel Johnson.

Elizabeth Johnson concluded the ceremony with a prayer of dedication.

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