Andy Johnson ’71: A Champion of OC, William Buchanan and Spoken Word

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Andy with his wife, Peggy

Andy Johnson ‘71 has been working diligently for 10 years to raise money for student scholarships in honor of his former professor, mentor and friend, William “Bill” Buchanan. Just one of many projects to this end, Andy started the William Buchanan Spoken Word Project (WBSWP) in 2009, a spoken-word CD that Andy produces and sells. All donations help fund the annual William Buchanan Award for outstanding English and journalism majors. 

To date, Andy has produced three CDs, including “Verse from the Oaks,” “The Dog Archetype” and “Runes.” He is currently working on the fourth CD in the series, “Runes II — Dusting and Sweeping.” Both “Runes” and “Runes II” feature creative writing and music from former OC faculty and alumni.

The Roots of Passion

This strong dedication to The University of Olivet students and the WBSWP stems from Andy’s own college journey. He is quick admit he needed a little extra help as a student, and Andy hopes to now be the one giving students the extra push toward success.

“I went to a large high school in Jackson where I was really nothing but an athlete and a ladies man,” Andy said. “I never really attempted to study, but everybody in my family went to college. I was just expected to go to college too, even though I wasn’t sure what to do there or how to get there.”

Andy wanted a small college experience where he could get the help and personal attention he needed to develop a student-focused outlook on life. He was sure The University of Olivet was the match he was looking for.

“I went to all of my professors right away and asked them what I needed to do to pass their classes. That’s not possible at a larger college,” Andy explained. “They were astonished someone had asked that question, but I wrote down and did exactly what they said. I did well my first year and all I did was study. I learned right away that my professors were accessible, and I continued to follow that model through my whole four years. My professors even became my friends. We traveled together and I was invited to their houses. I lucked out by coming to Olivet.”

The University of Olivet — A Home and a Family

Andy joined the Echo staff right away, The University of Olivet’s student-led newspaper, and studied philosophy and English. He also joined the Kappa Sigma Alpha fraternity, a brotherhood that further instilled the feeling of family at OC in Andy. In addition, some of Andy’s fondest memories include serving as president of the philosophy club, earning a prestigious award at the Honors Convocation and showcasing a student film at local festivals.

“There was a constant discourse and dialog between students and professors,” Andy said. “I’ve experienced classes at five different grad schools and only one course was as challenging as courses at Olivet. We often had classes of six to 12 people. I couldn’t say ‘I’m not reading the full lesson’ because I knew I would need to do the work, think on my feet and write and present well in my classes. I thought it was incredible and it never went away!”

The Legacy of Bill Buchanan

Experiences Andy had at the hands of Bill Buchanan were some of the most notable and beneficial. Bill often hosted writers, authors, poets, critics and reviewers at The University of Olivet. Andy was always the first to jump at the opportunity to meet these men and women.

“My friends and colleagues at other institutions were reading the work of the people I was actually getting to know,” Andy said. “I was invited to pick up many of these campus guests from the airport. I not only attended their readings and lecture parties, but I hung out with these successful people after. I got to know live, vibrant people in all kinds of areas; it was a standout experience.”

Over the years, Andy has partnered with a number of fellow OC alumni, friends and students of Bill’s to create the William Buchanan Spoken Word Project. The project was born when Andy diligently transferred two cassette tapes into CDs featuring Bill reading the works of the famous poets, authors and writers who visited Olivet. Thanks to his hard work and support from OC staff, the WBSWP seemed like a natural fit.

While Andy is still responsible for the brunt of the painstaking work — selecting spoken word pieces for the CDs, finding and recording readers, overseeing the design of the cover art, advertising the project and much more — he prefers to remain behind the scenes.

“I’d like to bring Bill’s name back to the College in a constructive way,” Andy said. “Proceeds of the project fund student scholarships, but I don’t deserve anything in return. It is a reward within itself to play a tiny part in students’ lives.”

Contact Andy to learn more about the William Buchanan Spoken Word Project or to purchase a CD at awj@zoominternet.net. For more information about The University of Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu.


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