Stanley Johnson’s father was an MIT athletic trainer who encouraged his son to get involved in track and field events in high school and urged him to stay in shape for the rest of his life. And the advice has served Johnson well: at 95, he is thriving in Arden, NC, with only a bit of trouble getting around on his walker. “I wouldn’t want to live to 107 like my mother did,” he muses, “but my brain works a little bit, so I can get along.”
As an MIT student, Johnson competed in Olympic trials with the legendary athlete Jesse Owens and, although he didn’t make the Olympics, set an MIT outdoor long-jump record of 24 feet, 2 inches. That record lasted 74 years, until Stephen Morton ‘10 broke it last year–by a quarter-inch. Johnson still holds the indoor MIT long-jump record of 23 feet, 6¼ inches, set in 1935. In his freshman year, he broke a hurdle record held by Henry Steinbrenner ‘27, who won the national championship in the 220-yard hurdles as an undergraduate.
After earning his MIT degree in metallurgy, Johnson took a job with U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh. He and his wife, Astrid, whom he married in 1945, then moved to Europe, where Johnson worked for four years–first in Sweden and then in Belgium–as a metallurgical engineer and in sales. He stayed with U.S. Steel for nearly 50 years until retiring in the early 1980s. Ultimately, he worked as manager of purchasing, buying raw materials for all of U.S. Steel’s American plants.
Johnson still enjoys reminiscing about his MIT days, when he got to class by walking across the Harvard Bridge from his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. He also remembers that outdoor athletes had to work particularly hard in the winter: they had to shovel the snow off the track before they could race. “We didn’t have a crew that prepped the track. We did it,” he says. “Then we ran on it … and we won it.”
Johnson and his wife celebrated 60 years of marriage before she died in 2006. He has a son, Steven, a daughter, Elizabeth, and three grandchildren.