Teacher – Coach – Principal
Class of 1940
“Sycamore has been good to me” … That’s what Pete Johnson said when told about his induction into Sycamore High School’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame! This modest man has made so many contributions to the Sycamore School District and our community there is not enough room to list them all.
Pete quotes Henry Adams, “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.” Well Pete’s influence in the Sycamore School District and our community goes on and on!
Peter L. Johnson was born to immigrant parents from Scandinavia. He grew up living next to the “old” Sycamore High School on East State Street where he would volunteer as a kid with the football team. He has said the people that made the biggest impact on his life growing up, other than his parents, were his scout master, the Sycamore Park staff members and his coaches with their guidance.
Pete graduated from Sycamore High School in 1940 and then went on to obtain a B.S. in Education from NIU, an M.A. in Education from Colorado State University, a C.A.S. in Educational Administration from NIU, Basic Engineering Certificate from St. Norbert’s College and a Vocational Education Certificate from the University of Illinois.
Pete married and had three children. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 and served three and a half years with overseas assignments in Saipan, Okinawa, Japan and Korea. He received his Honorable Discharge in 1946 and came back to Sycamore to teach and coach at Sycamore Junior High School. In 1948 he was assigned to Sycamore High School and stayed until 1980! His many positions at SHS have included being a teacher, coach, athletic director, vocational director, assistant principal and principal.
After retiring from SHS, he’s been a visiting professor at the University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University and was employed on a federal project as Executive Director of the Illinois Council on Vocational Education. Overall, Pete has been in education for 49 years!
Pete was instrumental in starting the “School-to-Work program which has now become the Cooperative Education program. His partnerships between business, labor and education have made these programs the standard for the State of Illinois and the nation. His efforts have impacted the lives of hundreds of students and their families over the years. Pete went on to testify in the U.S. Senate promoting training programs for the United States work force. He realized early on that not every student is “cut out for college” but they needed training in their field of choice.
In addition to the Cooperative Education Programs, Pete initiated the Sycamore School District’s Adult Education Program in 1957. The first G.E.D. classes were offered through this program and they had 45 students in the first class! Eventually these classes were offered at Kishwaukee College with Pete’s help in developing the course offerings.
Pete has been a member of numerous boards, clubs and organizations, not only in the Sycamore community but at the state and national level. He’s received so many honors and awards for his educational and athletic contributions, as well as for his community and national contributions (i.e., Sycamore’s “Man of the Year” in 1961, “Friend of Education” by SEA in 1994, NIU’s 1982 “Alumnus of the Year”, inducted into the Illinois Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1977 and he is a court appointed Special Advocate for Children – CASA.) The list goes on and on!
Over the years, Pete encouraged people and businesses to offer scholarships for SHS graduating students. Many families established memorial scholarships in honor of their loved ones. One such scholarship Pete continues to work very closely with is the Lucien and Essie B. Smith scholarship. This scholarship was established in 1968 and continues today! Thanks to Pete’s influence and encouragement over the years, the number of scholarships offered during our Senior Awards Night programs is astonishing! As a member of this community you will be overwhelmed with community pride!
Sycamore Community School District #427 and our community continue to benefit from this man’s contributions! Thank you for your endless energy and dedication to our children and community. We are proud and honored to induct Mr. Peter L. Johnson into the Sycamore High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame!
Mr. Peter L. Johnson – 2014 Inductee SHS Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame