In Memory of
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.

A Tribute to Dr. Phil Johnson

Multnomah University is grieving the loss of our friend and colleague, Dr. Phil Johnson, who passed away on February 10, 2021. Dr. Johnson’s deep love of our Savior was reflected in his life verse: “One thing have I desired of the LORD, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4. Following is a reflection on his life and ministry written by Dr. Daniel Scalberg, chair of the History and Humanities Departments.


In Memory of Phil Johnson, Ph.D.

By Daniel A. Scalberg

Dr. Johnson’s twenty-four years of service at Multnomah University as Library Director, valued educator, graduate thesis advisor, beloved mentor, interim dean, and esteemed colleague takes the measure of a man who devoted his talents in service to Christ and the Multnomah community. During my first conversation with Dr. Johnson, early in the fall semester of 1997, I discovered our shared love of history, the liberal arts, theology, BBC Masterpiece Mystery Series, and great choral music.

Eagerly accepting my invitation to assist, as an instructor of American history, in the newly formed undergraduate history major, Dr. Johnson plunged with enthusiasm into the work of teaching United States survey and upper-division courses on 19th century America. Thanks to his doctorate in the History of Ideas from the University of Texas, he enriched and broadened the Multnomah history curriculum to include the scholarly exploration of the changing role of women in American life and the American minority experience. He returned the favor by inviting me to serve on the MU Library Committee, where I observed, with keen interest, his passion for expanding the library holdings, in a multi-disciplinary direction, befitting of a Christian liberal arts university. With an eye toward the future, he devoted many hours to new acquisitions in circular areas and research databases that went well beyond the range of the traditional Bible college.

A real workhorse, Dr. Johnson was able to find additional time to cover needed responsibilities for Multnomah Biblical Seminary that included serving as a church history instructor and thesis advisor. Yet, a list of academic accomplishments and service to the university can only partially capture the true Christian commitment and generosity of spirit that motivated the man.

For me, Dr. Johnson’s office became a sanctuary where I sat for many hours with a trusted friend, free to speak openly, and from whom I received wise and valuable counsel. During my tenure as Dean of Arts and Sciences, I found Dr. Johnson’s warm Christian generosity of spirit, truly comforting and sustaining. Through the challenging tasks of university admission, I could always count on Dr. Johnson’s support and, at times, I wished that I could duplicate him. Sadly, my friend and colleague is gone. Along with the Multnomah community, I grieve the loss as I look forward to a reunion with Phil Johnson on that great day of resurrection in the presence of our merciful redeemer.

Daniel A. Scalberg, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of History and Humanities