Spending Time with Students
Johnson’s first post-presidency visit took campus by surprise. In April 1970, Johnson arrived unannounced on campus to mingle with Southwest Texas State University’s faculty and students. He first met with a group of student leaders in President Dr. Billy Jones’s office, after which they ate lunch together in Commons Dining Hall. Johnson happily signed autographs and chatted with excited students and teachers.
After lunch, Johnson popped into a government class taught by Randall Bland in the Evans Academic Center. Johnson listened to Bland’s lecture for fifteen minutes before engaging the class in a question and answer session. Once again, Johnson ate in Commons Dining Hall with another group of lucky students who were randomly selected to join him as they entered the cafeteria.
Johnson then attended the Student Senate's weekly meeting, where he quietly observed the meeting's proceedings before addressing the senate, remarking that he enjoyed “see[ing] student government in action.” This visit set the precedent for Johnson’s continued relationship with SWTSU until his death, where Johnson actively participated in campus events and became an almost regular fixture on campus.
“I took four years from this school,” said Johnson, “and I hope to be able to give back more than I received.”
Johnson presented at a SWTSU commencement for the fifth time on August 14, 1971, where he bestowed the college’s Lyndon B. Johnson Award to graduating student Norman Alexander, a physics major. While giving Alexander the award, Johnson commented, “I am gratified that you will be using this award ($2,500) to further your education. No one could ever make a wiser or more profitable investment than to make it in education.” The LBJ Outstanding Senior Student Award continues to be awarded each year.
On November 27, 1972, Johnson attended a Bobcat Club Luncheon, where he was awarded a lifetime membership plaque. He also gave the first J.C. Kellam Award to Jim Stienke, an outstanding senior football player. This award fund was established by Johnson during a Bobcat Club Luncheon in November 1971 to honor of his friend J.C. Kellam. Johnson also donated a large portrait of Kellam, who played football for the Bobcats in the early 1920s, to hang in the college’s field house.
Inspiration for the LBJ Lecture Series
Johnson’s final visit took place on January 16, 1973, when he brought his former economic advisor, Walter Heller, to campus. Johnson introduced Heller, who answered students’ questions at the Business-Agriculture-Math Building. Not one to be shy, Johnson soon began asking his own questions, imploring Heller to give his own interpretations of the federal government’s current policy. Most notably, this visit encouraged the creation of the University's LBJ Distinguished Lecture Series, which continues today.