In an action that fits the season, an anonymous donor has helped push the Leon Johnson Track and Field Scholarship at Northwestern State past the $25,000 mark.
The $15,000 contribution from an alumnus of the Demon track and field and cross country programs further strengthened the support of one of the 73 fully endowed athletic scholarships at Northwestern State funded through the Demons Unlimited Foundation, the official fund-raising arm of NSU Athletics.
“Coach Johnson was the whole reason that I came to NSU,” the donor said. “He coached for such a long time and did such a great job that my wife and I wanted to make this contribution in his honor.”
Johnson spent 31 years in charge of the Northwestern State program, the second-longest tenure of any head coach in NSU history behind basketball coach H. Lee Prather’s 36-year career. Johnson coached 134 individual Southland Conference champions – 83 outdoor and 51 indoor – 57 All-Americans, nearly 100 NCAA championship qualifiers and USA Olympian triple jumpers LaMark Carter (2000 Sydney Games) and Kenta Bell (2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games).
Johnson was presented the Nth Degree by former NSU President Dr. Randall Webb and the Southland Conference named it’s Outdoor Track and Field Coach award after him. Johnson was inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in 2017 and into the N-Club Hall of Fame in 1999.
Even after retirement, Johnson remained active in and around Northwestern State athletics, including working closely with the NSU men’s basketball program, further demonstrating his reach across generations. The endowed scholarship established in Johnson’s name is another example of his influence, which remains visible each November when NSU hosts the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Cross Country meet. Johnson was a key figure in first bringing the meet to Natchitoches in the late 1980s.
“Much gratitude to this former student-athlete for so generously giving back to their alma mater and for doing so in honor of a coach who means so much to them,” NSU Director of Athletics Greg Burke said. “Contributions by student-athlete alumni can have a ripple effect, inspiring others to follow their lead and are critical to the success of our teams.”
NSU Athletics now has surpassed $2.5 million in endowed funds to help offset the cost of athletics scholarships. Annual interest from a $5 million endowment total will fully underwrite all NSU athletics book scholarships and allow Demons Unlimited Foundation monies to be redirected to assist other areas that would benefit NSU teams.
To inquire about the Perpetually Purple program contact Burke at 318-357-5251.