Dr. Martin Luther Johnson, a member of Palm Beach Atlantic’s inaugural class, honored the university’s rich history while looking toward the future in his Founders Day chapel remarks Monday.
Johnson “began his academic pilgrimage” at PBA more than 50 years ago, he said. He was working the night shift loading freight in Delray Beach when he saw an ad in the newspaper for a new university opening in West Palm Beach.
He worked all night, changed his clothes and drove to campus, where he was greeted by a tall, thin gentleman – none other than PBA founder Dr. Jess Moody. Moody introduced himself and welcomed Johnson to PBA.
“That was one of the most phenomenal moments in my history,” Johnson said. After that, “I never felt like less-than. I never felt like an outsider.”
After graduating from PBA with his bachelor’s in religion and church history, Johnson went on to earn advanced degrees in law and counseling psychology. He served as an Army chaplain for 26 years before entering church ministry.
Turning to Scripture, Johnson invoked the story of Moses and Joshua to impart a lesson for PBA today: “We’re not here by accident. We’re here because God has destined us to be.”
Johnson trusted God knew every detail of his life. “God knew in eternity my family situation, my 80-cents-an-hour job, my working all night,” said Johnson, who had dropped out of fifth grade.
Moses was a transformational leader, and when he passed on leadership of Israel to Joshua, God promised to be with Joshua. The transition came with new ideas, new goals and new leadership, Johnson said.
“We’re here because at one point in history, there was bequeathed to us a legacy, a sense of vigor and vitality,” he said. “What are we going to do to perpetuate what they passed on to us?” Refusal to pass on history would mean “the legacy, the dreams of our founders will go into oblivion.”
New challenges and opportunities await, he said.
“We have lying before us challenges. Unexplored regions. Heights unknown,” Johnson said. “God is calling us to make the world a better place because we’ve been here.”
At the conclusion of the service, the Rev. Patrick Moody came on stage with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Jessica, to give PBA a porcelain Sailfish figure by artist Edward Boehm. Many years ago, Moody’s mother, Doris, gave the sculpture to his father, Jess Moody, to commemorate the university receiving its accreditation from the Southern Associate of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
With PBA no longer “the impossible dream,” the porcelain figure served to honor Moody and remind him to keep PBA in prayer, Patrick Moody said. Other institutions with Boehm’s work include the Vatican Museums, Buckingham Palace, the White House and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Dr. Terriel Byrd, professor of urban Christian ministry and chair of the Council for Intercultural Engagement, closed in prayer.
Photo 1: Dr. Martin Luther Johnson speaks at Founders Day on April 4, 2022. Johnson, who dropped out of fifth grade, enrolled in PBA's first class and went on to earn graduate degrees in law and counseling psychology.
Photo 2: The Rev. Patrick Moody, son of PBA founder Dr. Jess Moody, unveils the Edward Boehm-made Fighting Sailfish porcelain figure that the Moody family is giving to PBA. Doris Moody gave the figure to Jess Moody as a gift when the school earned its accreditation. Amy Moody, Patrick's wife, looks on at left, and President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, at right, admires the figure.