Extended Learning Division was His ‘Guiding Light’

Russ Johnson ’05When Russ Johnson ’05 embarked on a journey to earn a bachelor’s degree as an adult learner, the Oswego Division of Extended Learning was his “guiding light.” He says the staff at what was then called “continuing education” shepherded him through the process that led to a degree in public justice.

Already successful at that time as a major crimes investigator for the Fulton Police Department and as an elected official, serving on the Oswego County Legislature from 1994 through 2007 and chairing that body for his final four years, Johnson sought a degree to enrich his life and secure his family’s future.

“The advocacy offered to non-traditional students was amazing. I experienced an entire culture of support that was respectful of my professional needs and sensitive to my personal demands,” he says.

Two life events prompted Johnson’s quest: first, after 21 years in law enforcement he was looking at retirement and, second, he received a diagnosis of stage 2C testicular cancer.

“It was the most humbling time of my life,” Johnson says. “Chemo changed my world view. It put all those smaller, irritating things into perspective.” In order to raise awareness about his disease, Johnson allowed the local newspaper to chronicle his medical journey: Six months of daily treatment. Surgery. Three more months of chemotherapy.

His personal medical history ignited Johnson’s interest in what chemo does to and for the body. He became interested in health care and, with his Oswego degree, he joined Pfizer, then Walgreens, where today his business card reads: Strategic Account Manager of Managed Market Sales for the Employer Segment.

“In an ever evolving health care landscape, beyond the bricks and mortar of the Walgreens retail pharmacies, my role is to strategically work directly with large employers in both the private and public sectors by helping them achieve their employee population health goals,” Johnson says. “I assist clients in obtaining affordable, quality health care services and solutions through pharmacy, health and wellness we offer employers on a national scale.”

Johnson says that with his wife, Susanne Lansing Johnson ’87, and 12-year-old daughter, Susanne, “a miracle of in vitro fertilization,” life is good. He is vocal about the need to promote self-examination and early treatment, saying, “No man should die from testi­cular cancer.”

Russ Johnson openly expresses gratitude — for a family he adores, a job he relishes, and an Oswego program he appreciates for supporting him as he reached his personal goals.

—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97

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