Meet the New Dean of Students

Kevin Johnson’s Journey to Redeemer

Where are you from?


I was born and reared in Brantford, ON. As such, the exploits of Wayne Gretzky were seared into my childhood! Life has taken me from Ontario to Alberta to Manitoba to Kansas and now, back to Ontario.  


Can you describe your background and how you found your way to Redeemer?


Looking into the rear view mirror, it seems that my path to Redeemer began in September 1993. That was the month that I started my first year of post secondary education. The short of it—I fell in love. I fell in love with learning. With books. With discussion. With lectures. With late night pizza runs. With bruised shins from intramural floor hockey. It is hard to explain but my college experience was profoundly transformative. The greatest gift from those years was a deepening love for God that came alive in me.


During my undergrad and graduate programs, I was able to work on campus as a Resident Assistant and, later, as a Resident Director. It was through those experiences that I discovered that I could be a part of the learning journey, not just as a tuition paying student, but professionally as well. Since that time, I have had the privilege to work and teach on several Christian college and university campuses. I have been involved in residence life, commuter services, chaplaincy, campus ministries, spiritual formation, student leadership development and adjunct faculty teaching. I also coached for several years in the volleyball program.


Another track in my journey has been local church ministry. When I was not involved in a university position, I was able to serve in the pastorate for 12 years.


A year or so ago, I began praying, “God, what’s next?”. That journey leads to some conversations with Redeemer. I am grateful to be here.


What do you enjoy most about working with students?


A couple of thoughts come to mind…


First thought: in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians he says, “…I am in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4.19). That sentiment resonates deeply with me. It is such a privilege to see Christ formed in students. This is what Redeemer is about. We want to see Christ embodied in everyone who is a part of this community. From the classrooms to the athletic courts, to the residence halls to the dining room and to the lounges. The goal is “to present each person fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1.28). Being a part of that journey is one of the gifts of working with students and being at a place like Redeemer.


Second thought: I had a mentor that once referred to “The Grand Conversation.” That phrase was helpful for me. Christian universities are places where we actively participate in this Grand Conversation that has been going on for centuries. We ask questions like: What is life about? What is the good life? What is beauty? What is important? What does it mean to love God and love others? How are we to live in this world? Redeemer is a place where those kinds of questions are welcomed and pursued. God has given us a good world. It is a broken world, but it is a gift to us, nonetheless. It is our privilege and duty to learn about and to engage this world. Which is why we study the sciences, arts, humanities, philosophy, history, math, literature, language, business, psychology, the social sciences and so many other disciplines. We do this so we can thoughtfully participate in the Grand Conversation and faithfully serve Jesus in this world. Being a part of this Conversation is one of the things that I love about working with students. By God’s grace, we get to be conversation partners and journey together.


And there is at least one other reason why I like working with students: cafeteria food! Just so good! Yes, accusations of weirdness have been known to be directed my way. In the meantime, pass the poutine.


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What hobbies do you have?


Outdoorsy stuff (hiking, fishing, etc.). Sports (anything competitive, baseball and volleyball are favourites). Books (perusing bookstores, collecting books, not reading the books that I buy). Graphic design.