Walter C. Johnson received his B.S. from the University of Illinois in 1958. He majored in Park and Recreation Administration and cites the teachings of Charles K. Brightbill and Allen B. Sapora as having an everlasting influence upon his career. Upon graduating, he served in the U. S. Army Medical Corps and Special Service areas. Upon his military discharge, he returned to the University of Illinois and completed his master's degree in Park and Recreation Administration in 1962.
His first professional position was Director of Recreation at Mount Prospect Park District in Illinois. A highlight of his tenure there was the passage of a $1,100,000 referendum for the purchase of the Mount Prospect Country Club and the expansion of the park district's recreation programs particularly those that were targeted toward serving teenagers.
Three years later, Johnson was selected as Executive Director of the Glencoe Park District in Illinois. He served in this position for nine years and transitioned the park district from a passive park-oriented philosophy to one that involved active recreation and community involvement. He also participated in the development of legislation that enabled the formation of the first special recreation association, a conglomerate of ten park districts in the north suburban area of Chicago who focused on providing park access and recreational opportunities to physically and mentally challenged individuals. While at Glencoe Park District, he also passed a recreation tax referendum, acquired Lake Michigan frontage for the Glencoe Boating/Sailing Beach and built an artificial ice rink.
In 1973, Johnson became Executive Director of the Naperville Park District in Illinois, a fast-growing Chicago suburb. In this position, he aggressively acquired over 1,000 acres of land and administered the nationally-recognized Naperville Developer Land Donation Ordinance. He built Springbrook Golf Course, received $2 million in Land and Water Conservation Funds, served on the planning team for the Naperville Riverwalk, administered the Martin Mitchell Victorian Museum, and improved the operation of Centennial Beach.
In l983, Johnson became the National Recreation and Park Association's (NRPA) Great Lakes Regional Director. He increased the number of members in his region from 3,200 to 6,200. He initiated the first annual NRPA National Aquatic Conference in 1986; developed the National Aquatic Section component of NRPA, later becoming an NRPA Branch; coordinated the presentation of a National Aquatic Management School; created and developed the National Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) certification program; wrote and received over $800,000 in United States Coast Guard grants to fund boating and personal watercraft safety; organized the National Aquatic Summit, a group of 65 national aquatic associations and organizations; and received the Paragon Award for Excellence from the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In 1994, he earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives.
Johnson served as NRPA Chief Operating Officer prior to retiring in October 2003. He served as the administrator of the National Gold Medal Awards program for 21 years and in 2004 helped to transition the program into the Academy. Since 2006, he has been employed as a Crowd Management Associate by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Throughout his career, Johnson has served on the boards and committees of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association and Illinois Association of Park Districts. He proudly boasts that he has attended 51 consecutive Illinois State Conferences as well as 47 of 48 NRPA National Congresses. Oil painting, golf, fishing, photography, and international travel among his many hobbies. [updated 01/14]