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Johnston finds her role ‘endlessly interesting’

Mimi Johnston

In its 25th year of operating, the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center has a new director. Mimi Lange Johnston started her new role in early June.

“The time has really gone quickly,” she said. “There’s so much to do. There’s so many different aspects to the job, but most of it is fun.”

A Tiffin native, Johnston graduated from Calvert High School in 1981, and then studied music at Ashland College.

After college, she moved to Chicago.

“I had a really wonderful career in music, theater and advertising,” she said. While there, she said she worked with the Leo Burnett company, which creates and produces national ads for McDonald’s and other well-known companies. During that time, she won a Cleo award, the advertising industry’s highest honor.

During that time, Johnston married her husband, Tom, now deceased, who was a professional photographer, and the family moved to Nashville where they remained for 22 years.

“My girls are 15 months apart,” she said. Both of them work in the arts, she said. Haley lives in Chicago and Hannah lives in Australia.

As a musician and song writer, Johnston said she wrote and produced a children’s album.

In Chicago, she performed music at many venues, including the Fairmont Hotel.

“I’ve just been really fortunate,” she said.

“As far as me and my career, I’ve gone where opportunities have opened up and I’ve found that opportunities opened up easily for me in areas where I have had little to no experience,” she said. “I’ve been allowed to learn on the job and I’ve always done really well.”

Johnston said she loves to learn new things, and she find her new duties “endlessly interesting.”

Although she has a lot of experience being an administrator, she has mostly worked in the areas of arts and theater.

“I spent my entire career doing music and theater,” she said. “This is the first job I’ve ever had that doesn’t have anything todo with that.

“I know nothing about the great outdoors,” she said. “I’m starting to learn, but there’s a learning curve.

“I find it hilarious that Sister Shirley (Shafranek) refers to me as her boss because everything I’m learning here I’m learning from her.

“I love working with Sister Shirley,” she said. “She’s perhaps the most patient but also the most no-nonsense educator I ever met.”

Johnston said she doesn’t have the knowledge base to teach science-based classes, but this summer she has assisted where she can.

Next summer, she is thinking about teaching an arts-based camp at FELC.

“In that, I have decades of experience,” she said. “Collectively, with the faculty here, we could come up with something totally different and totally wonderful.”

Johnston said she moved back to Tiffin last summer to be close to family, including her mother who is in her early 80s, and her sisters.

“I just wanted to be able to spend some really meaningful time with her,” she said. “I just didn’t need to stay in Nashville anymore. It was time to come back.

“It’s been great to reconnect with old friends I have known since my grade school days,” she said.

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