The Hanover College community mourns the passing of Gerald R. “Jerry” Johnson Jr. ’69. Johnson, who has served the College as a treasured leader, partner, colleague and friend, died Tuesday, Jan. 22, at age 72 in Hanover, Ind.
He was a member of the Hanover College Board of Trustees from 2004-09, serving on the finance and investments committee and the building and grounds committee. A passionate advocate of Hanover’s Business Scholars Program (BSP), he resigned his position on the board in 2009 to assume the role as executive director of the program. Under his guidance, BSP experienced exponential growth, eventually offering unique courses, paid internships and career guidance for more than 300 students.
In 2016, he became executive director of Hanover’s Levett Career Center and led the College’s transition to a new methodology for the delivery of career and professional development services. By the time of his retirement in June 2017, he had personally served hundreds of students as a dedicated leader, educator and mentor. In many cases, he also served as a compassionate and trusted emotional and financial supporter.
He returned to Hanover’s Board of Trustees in January 2018.
Johnson, a cum laude graduate, majored in English and theology while at Hanover. He engaged in graduate studies in accounting and finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis before pursuing a banking opportunity in St. Paul, Minn.
He eventually moved to western Michigan and, for more than 30 years, was a leader in the banking industry and vital community member in Grand Rapids, Mich. He co-founded Mercantile Bank in 1997 and served as board chair, chief executive officer and director of Mercantile Bank Corporation and board chair of Mercantile Bank of Michigan. In addition, he served the region and his local community as a member of numerous philanthropic boards and committees, including the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan and Greater Michigan American Diabetes Association.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Milligan Johnson ’70. With a shared passion, Betsy Johnson served as the BSP’s director of internships on a volunteer basis for seven years – donating her entire salary to support experiential learning. She followed with an additional year as a volunteer for the College’s Office of Admission.
He is also survived by his brother, David Lawther Johnson, and his wife, Anne Nobles, as well as a niece, Catherine Nobles Johnson.
Visitation will be Saturday, Feb. 2, from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Hanover Presbyterian Church (174 E Main St, Hanover, IN 47243). A memorial service will follow from 2-3 p.m.
Hanover College will host a reception from 3-5 p.m. at the president’s home.
Memorial gifts should be directed to the Jerry Johnson Student Needs Fund. The fund provides Hanover students who experience a sudden change in financial need with the means to continue their education.