October 2013

Olinzie D. Johnson

Educator

Olinzie D. Johnson’s dedication to her community knows no bounds. Altruistic and compassionate by nature, she is fervent about everything from the right to an education to improving heart rates in the exercise class that she teaches.

The 89-year-old, who resides in Durham, N.C., is a guiding light for her community. Johnson has been a perennial advocate for education; she has marched in opposition to busing, ensured ways for children to get to school, mentored in the classroom and even founded a scholarship fund for high school seniors and college students at Mount Level Baptist Church.

The scholarship was sparked by the outpouring of love following her mother’s death in 1976, when so many floral arrangements were sent that Johnson donated them to a nursing home. While the flowers were enjoyed by the home’s residents, Johnson realized that the money spent could have been put toward a scholarship for students, so she founded a scholarship at her church. Created in honor of Johnson’s mother, the Albert E. Love Scholarship Fund was named after a young man who was a community role model and philanthropist. Johnson did not want the scholarship named after herself or “someone who had expired,” as she sees the scholarship’s young recipients as role models for other students.

Many see Johnson as a role model herself. She recently received the Inspiration Award granted by the Durham Center for Senior Life where Johnson volunteers and teaches a low-impact exercise class. According to the director of programs at the center, Allison Hubbard, Johnson’s low-impact exercise class is high on energy and encouragement.

“Lin is older than many of her students, and that’s part of her secret to inspiring them ñ if she can do it at her age, they have no excuse,” said Hubbard.

Johnson’s can-do attitude is as contagious as her personality. She serves as a beacon of hope, passion and strength to those lucky enough to know her – and a source for inspiration for those yet to encounter her.