Thursday, March 29, 2012

Executive Portrait Session for Oakland's History Books

Education is a very important factor in the lives of all individuals. It enables us to learn new information about the past, present and helps us delve into what can happen in the future. Education is also a chance to learn about important events that help impact today’s society, events that include some very important people. One of these important people is Odell Johnson.
Odell Johnson President Emeritus Laney College

 Odell Johnson is the President Emeritus of Laney College in Oakland, CA. He served as president of the college for 18 years and is now retired. Though he is retired he holds the title President Emeritus because the college recognizes him as a respected, distinguished individual who has contributed much, not only to Laney College, but to the community.

 Mr. Johnson has quite a bit of history with the educational system. He graduated with a bachelors degree from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga where he later served as the dean of students. Further research about his time at St. Mary’s resulted in the findings of an interesting piece of information. Forty years ago Mr. Johnson was dismissed as the dean of students and his dismissal resulted in the walk out of five African American basketball players during a game. The dedication, compassion and respect that Odell had shown the young men were a big reason why they walked off of the court in support of him. Years later, 35 to be exact, the young men were honored by the colleges Black Alumni Chapter and Black Student Union where they reunited with their beloved dean.
Executive Portrait of Mr. Johnson in studio at Positive Images

 MetWest High School in Oakland and Odell share a fascinating connection. In 2002 MetWest opened its doors to a group of 34 students embarking on a new journey through education.  The school occupied two classrooms, one for learning and the other for office space. Prior to MetWest moving up the street from the college, students were still very much involved with Laney, taking college courses that counted as high school credits as well as credits they could use towards their college degrees.

 An astonishing connection was recently made through MetWest’s internship program. Gisele Bonds, local portraits artist and owner of Positive Images Photography in Oakland had the opportunity of taking Mr. Johnson’s executive portraits. Ms. Bonds is a MetWest mentor and has been since September 2005, her first intern being LaStarr Moore of MetWest’s inaugural class of 2006.

 In meeting Mr. Johnson there was much learned about him. He enjoyed being the president of Laney College and loves it. He took his position as president very seriously, taking on many tasks, resolving problems and ensuring that all 6000 students were getting they were entitled to, the end result being a college degree. One of his favorite things about Laney is the main building with the school’s name on it because it is in his handwriting. Laney was in the process of creating a sign for the main building and Odell was asked to write Laney College a few times in cursive, having no idea that they would use his handwriting for the sign.

 In further appreciation for Odell, Laney has honored him by naming the Laney College Theater after him. He was honored at an unveiling ceremony on March 16, 2012, where everyone had an opportunity to witness the event. Mr. Johnson expressed how he really loved the ceremony and as he explained what had gone on, his eyes had a twinkle in them. He felt humbled by being recognized for his 22 years of service with the Peralta Community College District.

 Odell Johnson spends his free time contributing to different organizations. He is an active member of the Board of Regents for St. Mary’s College. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and is a member of the St. Mary’s College Athletic Hall of Fame.

 I can honestly say that it was an honor to meet Mr. Johnson. We thank him for the time he took out to have our current MetWest intern interview him, our past MetWest intern converse with him and for choosing Gisele Bonds to take his business portraits.

You can access more information about Laney College, MetWest High School, St. Mary's College and Positive Images by clicking on the names of each organization. Please feel free to browse our the Positive Images photo gallery located on the site as well as Like our Facebook page

Written By: LaStarr Moore
Social Media Consultant
Student of Social Media

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