Ron Johnson '73

Ronald Johnson ’73

In the 1950s, when Ronald Johnson was a kid in El Paso, Texas, he’d help his dad out with his second job as a janitor. Ron says it was crystal clear to him even at that age: he could clean doctor’s offices or he could be the doctor. Ron wasn’t raised to settle. His drive pushed him to become an all-district athlete, a national merit scholar, and—with a scholarship for minority pre-med students—part of Wesleyan’s Class of 1973. That was a class that resulted in 19 Black medical doctors, more Ron surmises, than any other non-HBCU (Historically Black College or University) that year. “Most colleges didn’t even have 10 Black students total.” 

“Those were tumultuous times,” he remembers. “The Kent State massacre. Nixon in Cambodia. Black Power. MLK assassinated. Being nurtured by Wesleyan made a big difference in my life. Either I did well in school or I’d be drafted, and Wesleyan was there to help me succeed.” Ron went on to become one of only two retinal surgeons west of the Mississippi and, in 1987, Kaiser Permanente Oakland’s Outstanding Physician of the Year. Being an ophthalmic surgeon is its own reward, says Ron. “You give people back their sight. It’s definitive. The bandages come off and they can see again.” As a volunteer performing vitrectomies in Sudan and restoring vision in America, Ron’s drive has helped thousands see what’s possible, even in tumultuous times.