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Decorated Military Veteran to be Honored with New Act of Valor Award

NWU alumnus Bob Johnson ('60) will be recognized with the first Rosentrater Act of Valor Award during the university's Legends and Legacies banquet on Sept. 28.
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NWU alumnus Bob Johnson ('60) will be recognized with the first Rosentrater Act of Valor Award during the university's Legends and Legacies banquet on Sept. 28. The new award is given to an alumnus whose heroic service falls beyond the call of duty.

No one in the university’s 130-year history represents courage and sacrifice quite like the late Professor of Philosophy John Rosentrater. The late Professor of History David Mickey (’39) called him “one of those giants who, from time to time, walks upon the earth.”

Rosentrater served with the U.S. Army’s 32nd Red Arrow Division during the First World War, and survived a gunshot wound to the head and multiple gas attacks. For his wounds and valor in combat, Rosentrater received a Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and three Bronze Stars. He was even nominated for the country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

Rosentrater made it his honor to follow his military service with a long career as a professor of philosophy at Nebraska Wesleyan University, touching generations of alumni with a soft-spoken integrity and kindness.

A century after his military service, Nebraska Wesleyan University established a new award in his name: The John Rosentrater Act of Valor Award. An award is given to an alumnus whose heroic service falls beyond the call of duty.

Its first recipient is Bob Johnson (’60). Johnson joined the Marine Corps after his Nebraska Wesleyan graduation and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant the next year. After attending the Marine Corps Officer Basic School, he was assigned as a Platoon Leader and instructor at the Officer Candidate School in Quantico. After reporting to Camp Lejeune as Executive Officer, he received permission to get married. After a two-day honeymoon, he was called back to emergency duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was promoted to Captain in 1965.

In Vietnam, Johnson assumed command of the Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. In 1967, he was wounded by artillery rounds during operations and was hospitalized in Japan. After three weeks in the hospital and one week of rehab, he went back to Vietnam, where he was promoted to Major and awarded the Purple Heart.

In 1969, he received the Bronze Star Medal for his “meritorious service in connection with operations against the enemy […] Making frequent trips to the front lines in order to assess and understand more fully the tactical situation, Major Johnson frequently exposed himself to enemy artillery fire and repeatedly distinguished himself by his courage, composure and superb organizational abilities.”

Later, he was sent to the Army’s Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kan. After graduating, he was sent to Okinawa as G-3 Operations Officer and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He retired in 1981. In addition to his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, he has also received a Navy Commendation Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal.

Johnson will receive the award on September 28 as part of Nebraska Wesleyan’s Legends and Legacies banquet.

“The Nebraska Wesleyan community honors the myriad of ways our alumni serve their country, from servicemen and women on the battlefield, to nurses and doctors in our hospitals, to teachers in our classrooms,” said Vice President for Advancement John Greving. “Our world needs wise people with the courage of their convictions. John Rosentrater and Bob Johnson are together the perfect embodiments of that wisdom and that courage joined together.”