CLAIM TO FAME: Russ Johnson ’67 won the USA Taekwondo National Championship for the men’s fourth master division (ages 66 and over) in July 2014, and he took the bronze medal in the World Poomsae Championships in Mexico in November. A sixth-degree black belt, Johnson has been a student of Taekwondo since 1972.
POOMSAE? “Poomsae is the Korean word for what most martial artists know as ‘forms,’” Johnson says. “Poomsae is a complex set of techniques — strikes, blocks, kicks, etc. — organized into a rigidly choreographed ‘fight’ with imaginary opponents. When you perform one of the eight black-belt poomsae required by the World Taekwondo Federation (the Olympic governing body), you are expected to perform it precisely the way it was designed. My execution of a given poomsae, in other words, should be precisely like that of a competitor from Korea, Australia, Mexico, or any other country.”
MASTER OF MANY TRADES: Armed with Wagner’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, Johnson became a captain in the Air Force and taught at the Air Force Academy; vice president for development at Wagner College in the late 1970s; and an executive for several different investment banks. He retired from Citigroup in 2001, having served as founding chairman and CEO of Tower Square Securities, Inc.
WHERE HE WAS MEANT TO BE: After his retirement, Johnson went back to his first love: art. “I’ve been a full-time watercolor artist and workshop leader since 2001, having taken full advantage of all those art classes I took as both an undergrad and graduate student at Wagner,” he says. “Although I majored in English, which seemed a bit more practical for an aspiring job-seeker, I suspect that art was where I was meant to be.” Check out his work and his workshop schedule online.
*"The Way of the Foot and the Hand" is a loose translation of the Korean words that make up taekwondo.