Sammye Johnson returns after two years of retirement


After two years of retirement, Sammye Johnson is returning in the spring to teach her Arts Criticism course. photo by Amani Canada, photo editor

In May 2016, Trinity said goodbye to Sammye Johnson, distinguished professor emerita of communication, as she retired after 35 years at the university. But a few lucky students will have the chance to take Johnson”™s Arts Criticism course as one last section will be offered.

Johnson began a celebrated career as a journalist and editor after receiving her bachelor”™s and master”™s degrees from Northwestern University. After graduation, she stayed in Chicago and worked for the Chicago Tribune as a feature writer and eventually as the editor of its Sunday magazine, Trib Magazine.

Upon joining the communication department at Trinity in the 1980s, Johnson continued writing as a freelance journalist and editor, publishing over 450 articles in various newspapers and magazines and receiving multiple writing awards. At the same time she taught courses including Arts Criticism, Magazine Editing and Magazine Writing.

Even after her recent retirement, Johnson has continued her freelance work. Her most recent project was editing the book that accompanies the current exhibit at the McNay Art Museum, “Chuck Ramirez: All This and Heaven Too.” Johnson is currently working on the book that will accompany an exhibit opening in February 2018 surveying the work of African American artists.

Johnson hasn”™t just been writing during her retirement “” she”™s also been reading.

“I”™ve read 79 books since officially retiring,” Johnson said.

In addition to reading books within her favorite genre “” mystery and suspense thriller authors Louise Penny and Patricia Cornwell are two of her favorite authors “” Johnson has used her newfound time to catch up with authors of award-winning fiction, such as Abraham Verghese, author of “Cutting for Stone,” and Emily St. John Mandel, who wrote “Station Eleven.”

Aside from writing and reading, Johnson has been enjoying one of her favorite activities that had previously been restricted to the summer months “” traveling.

“If I had wanted to travel, it had to be during the summer months with hordes of tourists jockeying to see a cathedral relic. I don”™t like to feel stressed, surly or sweaty, so I”™m delighted to walk the cobblestone streets of Europe primarily in the spring and fall months,” Johnson said.

In the months following her retirement in 2016, Johnson travelled to Italy, spending a week in Rome and four days in Florence and Venice.

Johnson says the highlight of this trip was Rome, where she was able to avoid the crowds at the Sistine Chapel as part of a small group that was allowed to visit after hours. The trip was so enjoyable that Johnson decided to visit again.

“I enjoyed Italy so much that I returned a year later in May 2017 to spend 12 days on the Amalfi Coast, primarily in Sorrento and Capri, with trips to the ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum. … I love the ability to travel when I want to now that I”™m retired,” Johnson said.

Johnson is returning to Trinity for a love greater than travel “” the love of teaching.

“I”™ve missed teaching, particularly the interchange that occurs in the classroom and the excitement that comes for those “˜Aha!”™ moments when students have a sudden insight or realization,” Johnson said.

The Arts Criticism course is one of Johnson”™s favorites. The seminar class focuses on the arts and society, with special attention paid to processes used to analyze, discuss, review and write about the arts.

Johnson isn”™t going to let her return to teaching prevent her from continuing her travels. After the 2018 spring semester ends, Johnson will be on her way to Paris and Barcelona.

Arts Criticism is currently waitlisted. For more information, contact Sammye Johnson at [email protected]