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‘Model Midshipman’ John Johnson First to Receive Posthumous Degree Under New Naval Academy Policy



Midshipman John Monroe Johnson was a Trident scholar.

He was, as his classmate said, a “model midshipman.”

And, on Friday, he was the first midshipman to receive a posthumous degree from the Naval Academy under a new policy.

Johnson, 22, died in December 2020 after a drowning accident while on winter break and is buried at the Naval Academy. He was set to commission as a Naval Special Warfare Officer.

His parents, John and Kim Johnson, received his degree during Friday’s Naval Academy graduation and commissioning ceremony. Vice President Kamala Harris, the keynote speaker, presented his diploma.

“Your son was taken far too soon,” Harris said during her speech. “And I promise you that he will not be forgotten.”

Johnson received his degree in mathematics with honors, his father John said.

John Johnson worked hard for a policy change at the academy so his son could earn his degree, Johnson said.

Under the new policy, midshipmen who have met academic requirements at the time of their death can receive their degrees posthumously, if approved by the academic board, Cmdr. Alana Garas, spokesperson for the academy, said.

Degrees are not automatically guaranteed. Families of the deceased midshipmen will have to request it, according to the Naval Academy instruction, which was signed into effect on April 19 by Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck.

It was a five-month process to get the policy, Johnson said. He requested his son’s degree because he felt he had met the requirements.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Air Force Academy had a similar policy, Johnson said, and he pushed the academy to adopt one.

“And we were very happy that the Naval Academy decided to embrace that change,” John Johnson said. “And recognize John with an academic degree that we know he earned and to do it in such a warm fashion for us. It really was a rewarding day, for us, as a family.”

John Johnson is the first midshipman to receive his degree under the policy, but he will likely not be the last as the policy will be able to apply to other midshipmen who have died, his father said.

“So I feel like he’s spearheaded a good change that will help other families like ours who are grieving, maybe have some additional closure […],” John Johnson said.

Kim Johnson was touched by the academy’s warmth in presenting the family John Johnson’s diploma.

During the ceremony, there were several moments of silence and reflection for John Johnson. Class of 2021 President Cameron Kinley spoke about Johnson’s impact on the academy during his comments.

“He is missed dearly and his spirit will live on in the Class of 2021,” Kinley said.

Multiple graduates and their families approached the Johnsons after the ceremony concluded to offer their condolences or share stories about their time with John Johnson.

“It just is a testament to who he was as a person and the way he reached out to people and encouraged people and accepted people,” Kim Johnson said. “And everyone. He’s always been that way ever since he was a little boy, just always loved all people.”

John Johnson always encouraged others, she said.

He had a broad friend group, his father said.

“He was a realist with respect to the world, but an optimist for his friends and colleagues,” John Johnson said.

Midshipman Johnson enjoyed the camaraderie he found at the academy, and his parents said they hope other midshipmen remember that they can always find a friend, even in unexpected places.

Johnson also excelled academically, his parents said. As a Trident scholar, he made a breakthrough on his mathematics research shortly before he died. He’ll be listed as an author on two upcoming papers. He maximized his time at the academy, his father said.

Johnson’s research adviser will continue his work, according to the graduation program.

This article is written by Heather Mongilio from The Capital, Annapolis, Md. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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© Copyright 2021 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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