IN THE SPOTLIGHT
DR. FRANKLIN JOHNSTON – EXCELSIOR’S PIONEER RHODES SCHOLAR
By Duane Coombs
Excelsior alumni are among the best and brightest, whether at home or abroad. Excelsorians are ranked among the best engineers, bankers, teachers, tradesmen, academics, entrepreneurs, public servants, and Olympians, and in many other pursuits.
Not quite as well known, is that Excelsior High School is the alma mater of an eminent Rhodes Scholar. Meet Dr. Franklin Johnston, Jamaica’s Rhodes Scholar of 1967 and proud Excelsorian.
In the pantheon of outstanding alumni, Dr Franklin Johnston occupies a unique position – an inhabitant of an island of one: Excelsior’s first (and, to date, only) Rhodes Scholar.
The Rhodes Scholarship is globally among the oldest, most prestigious and well funded. It is an emblem of high academic achievement, leadership potential and provides full financing for study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Franklin Johnston was justifiably thrilled to be named the Jamaica Rhodes Scholar of 1967 and joined an impressive roster of prominent Jamaican high achievers, which includes National Hero, Hon. Norman Manley, Professor Rex Nettleford and Rev. Ronald Thwaites.
“The Rhodes Scholarship was an exceptional prize and my normal pursuit of academic, sports and service to humanity emerged as an asset,” he recalls.
“I was ecstatic at the win – the other candidates were exceptional- as it vindicated my varied co-curricular activities; my parents’ “pushfulness”, the skill and caring of my teachers and their faith in me.”
The multi-faceted Dr. Franklin Johnston has been many things: a former Partner, KPMG Peat Marwick; business strategist, educator, newspaper columnist, project manager and consultant in Africa, Canada, USA, UK, the Middle East and recently, Senior Advisor to Jamaica’s Minister of Education and Canadian Certified MIG and TIG welder.
Beyond the recap of his resume, and it is impressive enough- BSc (Hons) UWI; Rhodes Scholar; D Phil, Oxford University – Dr. Johnston is a distinguished, multi-talented Excelsorian, a role model and committed nation builder. He hopes to edit his three book manuscripts which he neglected for years while attending to more pressing issues.
Success is second nature to Dr. Johnston. He entered Sixth Form at Excelsior armed with 10 Cambridge O’ level subjects from Kingston Senior School and never looked back. He was a part of the Hon Edwin Allen’s experiment of having a class of bright students in primary school do GCE O’ Level exams, to prove the quality was equal to others, and his success was used to justify the 70:30 policy and underpinned the “New Deal” in education.
While at Excelsior – which he considers an intrinsic part of the foundation of his success – he immersed himself in co-curricular pursuits.
“Excelsior was a thrilling experience academically; in terms of my personal development and Mr. Wesley Powell was an ace motivator” he recalls with some fondness.
His early pursuit of excellence in other fields included a stint in the Cadet Corps, where he attained the…