Cabrini’s longest working professor, Dr. Marilyn Johnson, wishes students learn to love literature

By America Lopez-Santiago
September 18, 2019

Johnson has always had a passion for literature. Photo by Marilyn Johnson.
Johnson has always had a passion for literature. Photo by Marilyn Johnson.
Johnson has always had a passion for literature. Photo by Marilyn Johnson.


Most people don’t know about Cabrini’s longest-serving professors. One of them being Dr. Marilyn Johnson, an English professor that has been working at Cabrini since 1966. 

Johnson was raised in Alabama and graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Spring Hill College at the time was mostly men when Johnson went to college. After that, Dr. Johnson did her graduate assistants at Villanova University, where she met her husband. 

“It’s kind of a funny story,” Johnson said. “He was a young instructor at Villanova, and they had an unwritten rule in the faculty lounge. The faculty dining room had tables that seat four people so if you walked in and there were two people at the table, you couldn’t sit at another table. You had to go to the table with them. So a friend of mine and I walked in, and two guys were sitting there, and we sat down with them. One of them was my husband, and it turned out he lived next door to where I was living I said, ‘Oh boy, I can get a ride to mass!’ ” 

Johnson posing with a statue of Chopin in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Marilyn Johnson.

Dr. Johnson applied to schools like Rosemont, Cabrini and Haverford to work.  She did this because she wanted to work near her husband that worked at Villanova at the time. She is a full-time professor, which means that she teaches four classes per semester. Johnson loves working and would not be working if she did not enjoy the job.

“I am way past normal retirement age,” Johnson said.

Not only does she love her job, but she also loves her students and think they are all wonderful with a few exceptions, like most professors. One of Dr. Johnson’s goals is to get better at encouraging students to read. She teaches literature and loves poetry, drama, short stories and novels. 

“I want all my students to love that stuff too. So on my syllabus, one of the objectives is to help the student develop their skill and delight. In reading and discussing literature. I want them to have the pleasure of reading, Johnson said” 

Johnson marching at commencement. Photo by Marilyn Johnson.

Some of Johnson’s favorite classes are Creation, The Fall, Redemption in Poetry, Music and Painting-Poetry- African American Women Writers. Dr. Johnson has changed how she teaches. The old-style was called “sage on the stage”, which meant the teacher stood in the front and lectured. Her new style is called guide on the side, which means she tries to encourage the students to do most of the work. Dr. Johnson’s tip to students thinking about taking her classes is to take their chances. 

Other than being a professor, Dr. Marilyn Johnson is an author to a book called “Images of Women in the Works of Thomas Heywood.” The book talked about a 17th-century dramatist named Thomas Heywood and examined how he treated women in his dramas. Something else people don’t know about Dr. Johnson is that she speaks three other languages. She can carry a conversation in Spanish, French, and Italian, which we did have a conversation in Spanish, where she told me that she loves Mexico and the people there. Johnson is also a certified scuba diver with over 500 open ocean dives.


America Lopez-Santiago

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap