LJ Under Fire: Freshman Caucus Hosts a Roast


Most Butler University students have heard about Levester Johnson’s tweet treats, love for social media or, at the very least, his nickname “LJ.”

What many would not know is that Johnson is a diehard country music fan and that he takes pride in his home gardening.

Due to his prominence in all things student-life and his close relationships with students, the vice president for student affairs was chosen for the Freshman Caucus’s first comedy roast event, Freshman Caucus member Kaylin Pellegrini said.

“We were trying to come up with someone who everyone knew and had some kind of interaction with,” Pellegrini said. “He’s fun, and we thought he would be a good candidate for something like this.”

Johnson’s roast will be held today at 7 p.m. in Reilly Room in Atherton Union.

Four representatives from the senior class, one junior, a freshman and a  faculty member will roast Johnson.

Former Student Government Association President Michael Keller will be one of Johnson’s “roasters.”

“He’s definitely an easy target,” Keller said. “With his love of bacon and addiction to social media, there’s a lot of material there.”

Johnson said he is excited but nervous for the roast.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “With that hinge of curiosity comes some nervousness.”

Johnson said it took a little convincing for him to agree to Butler’s first comedy roast.

“I pondered it for a bit and weighed the pros and cons,” Johnson said. “I decided there were more pros. And I figured, ‘Hey, I shaved off my signature mustache for a graduating class a few years back. I could probably handle this.’”

Johnson will celebrate his 22nd year at Butler on June 1. When Johnson came to Butler in 1992, he served in the role of assistant dean of students, where he oversaw housing and Greek life. He then advanced to the role of associate dean of students, which encompassed campus activities and student support groups.

Johnson then became the interim dean of students at Butler and was later selected to serve in the new vice president for student affairs role.

Johnson said the city of Indianapolis, the exceptional student body and the desire for constant improvement  is what has kept him at Butler for so long.

“I have said this so many times, but I literally have the best job in the entire world,” Johnson said. “I’ve gotten to prolong my college experience for almost 30 years. I am living the dream. I certainly am.”

Johnson’s undergradate career at Marquette University gave him experience in a variety of areas of collegiate life.

Johnson was a member of Marquette’s track and field team; a new student orientation guide; a member of student government and the College of Communication senator for student government; president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha; student union building supervisor; and a resident assistant. He was a broadcast journalism major with a minor in management.

Johnson said he was approached during his undergraduate career about the possibility of pursuing higher education administration.

“Some mentors and role models asked me, ‘Do you love college? Do you feel like you’ve made Marquette a better place during your time here? Would you like to keep doing that for the rest of your life?’” he said.

Johnson then pursued a master’s degree in higher education adminitration at Southern Illinois University and studied as part of a graduate assistant program, where he was able to have his tuition, room and board paid for, in addition to a recieving a stipend.

“I got the holy grail there,” Johnson said. “That was really the selling pont.”

Johnson earned his nickname “LJ” while at Southern Illinois, where classmates and professors struggled greatly pronoucing his first name.

“All of my classmates from the ‘84  class at Marquette know me as Levester,” Johnson said. “But when I got to (Southern Illinois), I was called Lester, Sylvester, Lavender—one time it was even Lavatory. Finally, someone said LJ and I just kind of stuck with it.”

Johnson met his wife, Jill Flannery Johnson, at Butler during his first month on campus. She was working as a part of student affairs and worked on new student orientation. Their offices were accross the hall from one another.

“We both tended to be the last ones in the office,” Johnson said. “I was trying to catch up and learn the ropes, she was getting ready for orientation and working through the summer. Within a month of meeting, one of us asked ‘Do you want to do dinner?’ And then the whirlwind that is our relationship began.”

Within four months, the two were engaged. They married within a year of their first date.

Johnson and his wife have three kids—Elizabeth, who goes by Lily, Isaiah and Elijiah, or “Bubba.”

“My kids have really grown up on this campus,” Johnson said. “They’ve gone to lots of basketball games and played around on the mall.”

Johnson’s social media usage is well-known on Butler’s campus, but he admits to being apprehensive when a co-worker created his first Twitter account for him.

“(Director of Residence Life) Karla Cunningham was the one who kind of twisted my arm and made my first Twitter account,” Johnson said. “To kind of joke at my love for meats and my carnevores nature, my first Twitter was named @Ribs4me.”

Johnson said he discovered the affect of Twitter interaction with students one day in a very long Starbucks line when he tweeted at as many people as he could who were waiting in front of him. He was eventaully approached by a fellow administrator and asked to be a kind of “personality” to represent Butler on Twitter, and the @LevesterJohnson account was created.

“I feel like my personality really comes across on social media,” Johnson said. “I try to stay extremely positive and avoid some hot-button and controversial issues. I see social media as a kind of window into student life and also a way to show students kind of ‘a day in the life’ of me.”

Johnson’s administrative assistant Deb Barrick said she has always been amazed by Johnson’s energy around and interest in students.

“He’s so accommodating to students, almost to a fault,” Barrick said. “Anybody and everybody wants to talk to LJ. There’s just not enough hours in the day.”

Barrick said, through working with Johnson for about 15 years total, she has picked up on his quirks and qualities.

“I would have never pegged him for a country music fan,” Barrick said. “But he has a 10-gallon hat and everything. Something else that is very important to him is his faith. He’s very spiritual.”

Barrick said she thinks Johnson’s positive attitute is infections.

“The first time I heard his laugh, even before I knew him, I thought, ‘Wow, that is one happy person,’” Barrick said. “His positivity is contagious. He loves to find the potential in people and he recognizes any and all small improvements. And he, of course, loves meeting new people.

“His people, particularily his Butler people, are truly his pastime,” Barrick said. “I don’t know how he does it, but he certainly loves what he does.”