Recreational sports director retiring after 46 years of service • 1971 – 2017
In 1971, Tom “Bo” Johnson arrived at Inver Hills Community College as a freshman lineman on the Giants inaugural football team. For perspective, 1971 was the year Apollo 14 landed on the moon and Patton won the Oscar for Best Picture. The world population has doubled since then, going from 3.7 billion to 7.4 billion. The U.S. real GDP has more than tripled, going from $4.9 trillion to $16.6 trillion. The first World Wide Web page was still 20 years in the future.
Following spring semester 2017, Bo is retiring from Inver Hills after 46 years as a student and staff member. For the past 16 years, he has served as the college’s director of recreational sports. His amiable personality, passion for service and dedication to the college mission have earned Bo the respect and affection of the campus community.
Bo graduated from South St. Paul High School in the spring of 1971, having competed as a Packer in football and track, the latter as a thrower specializing in shot put and discus. “Once a Packer, always a Packer,” Bo remembered. “I was recruited by Carl Richards, who was the Giants head football coach. We went 3–6 that first season and improved to 4–4 the following year. I played or worked for every Giants football team from 1971 until 1988.”
Inver Hills fielded teams in a number of NJCAA sports during the 1970s and 1980s, including football, volleyball, women and men’s basketball, tennis, golf, baseball, track and fastpitch softball. Bo played football for the Giants for two seasons, starting as a 5′ 10, 250-pound center on offense and nose tackle on defense. On the academic side, he took business and human services courses, earning his Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in 1975.
The year Bo became an Inver Hills alumnus was the same year he started his career at the college. “I became the equipment manager for all the college’s sports teams,” he said. Four years later, he would start coaching the throwers on the Inver track squad. Three of his discus throwers placed in state in 1982. One of his best throwers, Sue Doody, was an NJCAA Region 13 finalist in 1986 and qualified for nationals.
“I also coached the throwers on the girls track team at South St. Paul,” Bo added, noting that Sue Doody was the 1984 state champion in discus. “We always had someone at state. Track is my favorite sport. I’ve worked track meets at South St. Paul High School across six different decades.”
Another sport Bo loves is hockey. In 1974, while still a student at Inver Hills, he traveled with the U.S. World Junior Team to Winnipeg, Canada, serving as equipment manager during a tough tournament with teams from Russia, the Czech Socialist Republic, Finland and Canada. He also worked as the equipment manager for the St. Paul Vulcans, a Junior A team that played at Wakota Arena (now Doug Woog Arena) in South St. Paul. In 1979, he coached eight games for the Vulcans. “Dave Hanson played for us,” Bo recalled. “He was one of the Hanson brothers in the movie Slap Shot.”
Origins of Bo
Bo picked up his nickname at an early age after his brothers got an inflatable punching bag called Bobo the Clown. “My mom just started calling me Bobo,” Bo recalled with a smile. “Then when I was in 7th grade, one of my teachers looked at me and said, ‘From now on your name is Bo.'”
Time of transition
In 1989, Inver Hills discontinued competition in NJCAA sports. Bo switched his focus to activities, extramural (club) and intramural sports, and physical education. He served as assistant recreation director and in 2000 took on the role of director. He oversees the college’s recreational facilities, including the disc golf course, gymnasium, fitness center, weight room, outdoor fields and Outdoor Center. In fall 2016, Dakota County Technical College began taking advantage of the Activities building’s newly renovated gym. The Blue Knights NJCAA basketball and volleyball teams play their home games at the gym.
Bo helped form the Metro Club Sports League, which includes Inver Hills and five other Minnesota State colleges, North Hennepin, Century, MCTC, Normandale and Anoka-Ramsey. Inver competes in three league sports, flag football, basketball and ice hockey. He is also active in NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. He served as NIRSA Minnesota state director from 2001 to 2003.
“I’ve loved my time at Inver Hills,” Bo said. “I love the campus—it sells itself, but all the people I’ve met over the years are what have made the college special to me.”
Getting to know Bo
“Bo Johnson is the living history of Inver Hills. He was here when we had football, when we had just a few buildings and an entirely different student body. What is cool about him is that his relationship to students has never changed even as the college has changed. He loves them and they love him back. I am so glad that we were able to put in a real gym floor, remodel the wellness areas during Bo’s last years at Inver. The service desk has a window into the gym, which I call “Bo World,” so he can always keep an eye on what’s going on. Bo is a part of the college that we can’t replace and he will be missed.” — Tim Wynes, President, Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College
“Bo has been a fantastic supporter of students during all of his 46 years of work at Inver Hills Community College. He was there to make sure students had what they needed for any sport we had in the early days of the College, intramural sports, classes and personal workouts. He has also been there for faculty, staff and administration, including myself when I would try to get down to the gym after work. He has been there for everyone! I wish him well in his retirement.” — Cheryl Frank, President Emeritus, Inver Hills Community College
“When I started at Inver Hills in 2002, I would travel to various parts of Minnesota. When people found out I worked at Inver Hills Community College, they asked if Bo Johnson was still working there. It was unbelievable how many people knew Bo. He was at Inver Hills when the community colleges played football and he was part of the coaching staff for the Inver Hills Giants.
“When President George Bush announced his Community College Initiative in 2004, he sent his secretary of education, Elaine Chao, to Inver Hills to make the announcement to the press. I was standing with Bo outside the Activities Gym waiting for Chao to arrive when Governor Tim Pawlenty’s limo pulled up. Pawlenty stepped out of the limo with his assistants and he yelled, ‘Bo how are you?’ Tim gave Bo a hug, and I asked, ‘Bo, do you know everyone in Minnesota?’
“It is amazing the positive impact Bo has had on many people in the state of Minnesota, and his longevity at Inver Hills allowed him to meet thousands of people. Bo has been a wonderful person to work with because of his dedication to the students and the school. I’m happy for Bo that he is retiring, but also sad for myself and Inver Hills that we are watching an icon heading into the historical sunset of Bo’s career at Inver Hills.” — Anthony Courteau, Enrollment Center Specialist, Inver Hills Community College
“Bo Johnson hired me as a work-study student in 1984–1985 while I was playing basketball and baseball at Inver Hills. He was a great mentor and boss while I was in college, and I will always remember the great times I had with Bo. He is a one-of-kind person!” — Kerry Lurken, Enrollment Advisor/Financial Aid Specialist, Dakota County Technical College
Carl Richards and Tom “Bo” Johnson Endowed Scholarship
As the college’s first football coach and an instructor for 21 years, Carl Richards was an important figure to many students, alumni and colleagues. Bo and Carl’s leadership and service have contributed greatly to the Inver Hills campus community. The Carl Richards and Tom “Bo” Johnson Endowed Scholarship has been established as one more way to ensure their legacy continues to inspire students.
To learn more about how you can support the endowed scholarship, contact:
Executive Director of Foundation and Community Relations
Getting to know Bo (cont.)
“Although quite a bit younger than Sid, I would guess Bo Johnson has more close personal friends than does Sid Hartman. Bo has survived working with numerous coaches, athletic directors, and teachers and the students involved in their various programs. He was a real friend to me during my years at IHCC, especially during the time I was trying to start a women’s athletic program. I became a single parent during that time and he was a friend to my two young children, even taking my son to a Minnesota North Stars game. I wish him well in his retirement! — Arleen Boyd, Former physical education instructor, basketball and volleyball coach, Inver Hills Community College
From Pink Floyd to Pink: The Bo Johnson Years — “When I met Bo in the fall of 1975, Pink Floyd music was blaring as we played pick up basketball in the IHCC gym. Now a musical artist named Pink fills the musical air waves. From Pink Floyd to Pink, through four decades, Bo has served thousands of students…he’s the real rock star to me.” — Rich Zellmer, Inver Hills alumnus, Class of 1977
“In many people’s minds, Bo Johnson is the heart and soul of Inver Hills. No one has given more time and energy to make Inver Hills a better place. He has given his life to sports and recreation at the school. Everyone will always consider Bo a friend. He has a large friendship circle outside of Inver Hills also. I just hope retirement gives back to him what he’s given to so many people!” — Tom Cross, Inver Hills Alumnus, Class of 1979, NJCAA All-American Off Guard on the Inver Hills Giants, Assistant Director Student Life, Dakota County Technical College
“Bo has been a part of the Inver Hills community since the college was founded, first as a student, then as a staff member. His daughters have worked out in the Rec Center, taken classes here, and his family comes to special events. When Bo retires next year, Inver will be saying goodbye to one of the most dedicated members of our community! Bo knows everyone, and has made a huge impact on the many students who have come through the Rec Center through the years.” — Nicki Bottko, Student Life Activities Coordinator, Inver Hills Community College
“Everyone knows Bo. His name is synonymous with Inver Hills. He is a pillar of our values at Inver.” — Michelle Loredo, Student Life Office Manager, Inver Hills Community College
“In one’s lifetime, you meet individuals that have a significant impact on your life. Thomas represents one of those people in my life with his positive influence as a friend and counselor. His positive attitude toward students and student athletes was outstanding and helped shape many individuals for future success. Tom is an institution within an institution, and the student body and faculty will truly miss a great voice for the internal Inver Hills family as well as the surrounding communities. Congratulations on your retirement; it is truly deserved. — Dave Butina, Inver Hills Alumnus, Senior Account Manager, RR Donnelley
More about Bo…
What is your most memorable experience at Inver?
“I loved Saturday afternoon football games in the fall. The Giants had an unbelievable passing attack during the 1970s and 80s. In 1987, we averaged 427 yards per game. That stood as a national record for 18 years.”
What has been you toughest challenge in life?
My whole life I’ve had to cope with a thyroid disorder. When I was born back in 1952, I was a large baby, 23 inches long and weighing in at nine pounds. What the doctors didn’t know was that my thyroid gland wasn’t working. They told my parents to go home; they didn’t think I was going to make it. But then they decided to give me a thyroid test. The test saved my life—and I guess I’m the baby responsible for making that test a routine procedure. I’ve been taking thyroid pills ever since.”
What person has influenced you the most in life?
“Oh, there are so many. I have to mention Dave Glazier, my high school track and JV football coach, and Terry Abram, my youth football coach. I’ve known Doug Woog [U of M Gophers hockey coach and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee] since I was a kid. He has been a great influence and always so down to earth. I think the person who has influenced me the most is Jim LeClair. We grew up together and he went on to play in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals (see below to learn more).
Three words that describe you as a person:
Friendly. Gentle. Caring.
Bo and Beth, his wife of 32 years, reside in South St. Paul. They have three daughters who grew up as “gym rats” in the Inver Hills Activities building. Lindsay, 31, lives in New York City and works in the fashion industry. She was a three-time all-conference sprinter in high school. Lindsay attended Inver Hills and her dad reports that Inver helped her blossom. Laura, 28, was a PSEO student at Inver. She was All-State in basketball and went on to play volleyball, basketball and softball at Mesabi Range College, earning honors as a three-sport NJCAA All-American. She teaches middle school English and coaches volleyball in Mesa, Arizona. Lydia, 18, also a former PSEO student at Inver, is studying education at Winona State University. She would like to teach in an urban school district.
Mountain biking is one of Bo’s top pastimes. He also enjoys spending time with his dogs, Wolfman, a Pomeranian-poodle mix, aka Pomapoo, and Hope, who’s part lab and part golden retriever. “Our Jack Russell terrier, DJ passed away,” Bo said. “DJ was my favorite. We were together all the time.”
Bo has plenty of travel on his itinerary when he retires. “I’m looking forward to attending football games at Big 10 schools,” he said. “I’ll be going to the Big House in Michigan—a friend of mine works at the university. The best man at my wedding can get me tickets to Indiana football games. I’m also making plans to go to Illinois and Ohio State. There’s nothing like a college football game on a Saturday afternoon.”
Friendship with Jim LeClair
I met Jim when we were in grade school. He came over to the Johnson house all the time with my older brother Mark. Jim went with the family to the beach. We played touch football and Jim taught me how to be a center—we played the single wing at South St. Paul so every snap was three to four yards deep. We also practiced long snaps for punts.
Jim was on the South St. Paul wrestling team so he would try new holds on me in the backyard. Jim went to U of M Crookston, which was a two-year school at one time and they played in the northern division of the Minnesota Junior College League with Brainerd, Vermilion, Mesabi, Hibbing, Rainy River and Fergus Falls. Jim had to get his grades up and it was a great fit for him. Read more…
For more information about Fitness and Recreation at Inver Hills, contact:
Tom “Bo” Johnson
Director of Recreational Sports
Office: Activities Building 118 or Rec Desk
All the best in your retirement, Bo!