It might have been any other Saturday at the college’s St. Petersburg College/Gibbs Campus. But not for Wallace Thomas Johnson.
On Jan. 23, students and staff at St. Petersburg College awarded him a plaque, acknowledging him as SPC Athletics’ number one fan.
Prior to the men’s basketball game between SPC and State College of Florida, Johnson, 69, stood under an SPC Titans’ canopy, an area he has called home for most of his tenure as a SPC volunteer. He smiled as he handed a student a hot dog – a kind smile that said, “I’m here and being here is happiness.”
A computer science instructor, Johnson taught as an adjunct faculty member at SPC for 13 years. During that time he was offered a job with Florida Power in South Carolina, where he worked for three years. He eventually returned to Florida and found his passion for SPC sports.
“I live close to the college,” he said. “You know, one day I heard some noise in the gym, I walked in, and boy was I hooked.”
He has shown his love of SPC sports in many ways. He’s donated thousands of dollars for signs, chairs, tables and other odds and ends for the teams. And he’s a regular at any SPC game – whatever the sport – that he can possibly attend where students and staff greet him as Mr. Johnson or Tom.
“Volleyball is my favorite, but the basketball team is awesome as well,” he said. “They always put on a good show.”
Trouble struck, however, when he learned he had stage four lung cancer. He has since been going through chemo treatments to fight the disease.
“I just keep going,” he said.
Dedication and kindness are words that define Johnson, his fans at SPC said. Seeing him push through his illness every day to support something he loves has had a positive effect on the entire SPC community.
“Thank you, Mr. Johnson,” said Davie Gill, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator and Athletic Director at SPC. “I don’t think he realizes how much he impacts the students and players, but we are grateful.”
The college also named the corner where he has pitched the SPC Titans’ canopy for so many games “Tom’s Corner” in honor of the wonderful things he has accomplished.
“It’s nice to see a dedicated fan,” Gill said. It’s even more special, he added, considering the challenges Johnson faces to attend the games.
Johnson shows no sign of slowing down. The chemo treatments keep him somewhat shaky at times, but he shrugs it off, ready for the day.