Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On Wade Johnson's Final Adventure

Yesterday I posted the sad news that Wade Johnson, a Carleton graduate, has died in a mountaineering accident in China. Carleton is a wonderful school for people who love academics but also have other strong interests. Wade is a great example of the kind of person who can thrive there.

From the Star-Tribune:

Wade Johnson was an avid rock climber who organized trips for his friends in college -- but he was also the guy who reminded them to wear helmets.

"He went out of his way to create adventures for himself and others," said Amy Alstad, a senior at Carleton College who joined other students Monday in a gathering at the Northfield school to remember their friend's life.

Earlier Monday, on a peak in southwestern China, rescuers struggling through high winds and blizzards found Johnson's body. He and two other American mountaineers were buried by an avalanche.

Johnson, 24, a 2007 Carleton graduate from Arden Hills, had been working for Sender Films of Boulder, Colo., which makes climbing and outdoor adventure films. He had planned to start a Ph.D. chemistry program this fall at the University of Washington, where his girlfriend attends medical school.

On Monday, Johnson's parents, Bruce and Susan Johnson, issued a statement saying, "We are devastated by the loss of our son Wade. Our grief is profound as the reality of his loss sweeps over us. Yet he was a boundless joy for us as his parents.

"We are comforted by the fact that Wade lived and died doing the things that he loved. It has been transformative to experience the outpouring of support and love from literally all corners of the world."

Johnson, who earned Phi Beta Kappa honors at Carleton, was also a potter who played jazz and classical piano.

As an undergraduate, Johnson was a wilderness first responder who participated in the National Outdoor Leadership Schools and the American Alpine Institute, according to Carleton College. He was also chosen as a teaching assistant for a fly-fishing class taught by college President Robert Oden Jr.

He spent his semester abroad in Australia and spent six weeks exploring New Zealand's South Island. Johnson produced his first rock-climbing video while minoring in film studies, and he became a filmmaking intern at Sender Films in February 2008.

As a student, he also belonged to the Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts and worked at the college's climbing wall for three years, where he helped teach classes and set routes. "He sort of was our rock climbing community," said Alstad, adding that Johnson was meticulous about safety.

Carleton will host a memorial service for Johnson, tentatively planned for 10:30 a.m. on June 19 at Skinner Memorial Chapel.


The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay...

To An Athlete Dying Young

Tragic and sad.

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