Fifteen Years + Tenacity + Devotion to Family = Associate and Bachelor's Degrees

Timothy Johnson’s story is one of perseverance, tenacity and a fierce devotion to family. 

It took Johnson 15 years – from the time he first stepped foot on the Kent State University at Stark Campus in 2008 until May 2023 – to earn an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in communications. 

Johnson’s college education has been put on hold numerous times as the father of two children, Jeremiah, 13, and Brooklyn, 6, worked through custody and child support issues that at times required him to work two jobs. 

Johnson said Kent State advisors, who knew he had been working on his degree for 15 years, helped him coordinate his schedule so that he could take in-person classes — while working a full-time job — and still have time to spend with his children. 

“The amount of help, resources and constant support not only from encouragement but working with my schedule and being available helped me complete my degrees,” said Johnson, of Canton, Ohio. “I was constantly being helped, pushed and guided. I was so close to finishing, and everyone wanted to see me finish. Everyone at Kent State went above and beyond.” 

Recent graduate Timothy Johnson earned his associate's and bachelor's degrees after 15 years.

Since childhood, Johnson has fought adversity. He has battled sickle cell disease his entire life and when he was 14, he had a life-threatening bout with meningitis.  

Johnson graduated from Jackson High School of the Performing Arts in Jackson Township, Ohio, in 2005. After high school, Johnson sought a career in radio and enrolled at Cleveland State University for one semester before transferring to the Kent State Stark Campus later that year because of its affordability. 

In 2008, he enrolled at Ohio Center for Broadcasting Students and did a radio internship. In 2008, the broadcasting industry got hit hard during the financial crisis and opportunities in the broadcasting industry were diminishing. 

Johnson decided to go back to Kent State Stark to focus on communications, but it was necessary to take a break from school to work and make money so he could get split custody of his son Jeremiah. Through the years, there were also other times during the custody journey when Johnson had to start and stop school.  

In 2016, when Johnson withdrew from classes, started working two jobs and moved in with his mother, to 2018 when he got a factory job, took out a personal loan and began to pay off money he owed the university for past tuition and fees, Johnson was preparing to return to Kent State.  

Career opportunities at Keenan Advantage Group, where Johnson has worked for more than two years, gave him just the incentive he needed to finish his education. Completing his college degrees, he says, gives him the credentials needed to apply for a sales marketing support specialist position. Johnson also is interviewing for an admissions counselor position at a Canton area university. 

“I wanted to get my degrees as soon as possible to extend my career,” Johnson said. “Thankfully for me I only had a year’s worth of classes left. I focused on everything I could to graduate.” 

POSTED: Wednesday, May 31, 2023 11:47 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2023 03:05 PM
April McClellan-Copeland