In just 15 short years, Dexter Johnson left a lasting impression on countless people – classmates, bandmates and teachers. It’s said that even total strangers were touched by his kindness, warmth and playful sense of humour.   

“Dexter was one of a kind,” says his dad, Dr. Dan Johnson, a ULethbridge Faculty member in the Department of Geography and Environment. “He had so much innate talent and yet he was very humble. He was always looking for ways to help others and fill in wherever he saw gaps in the system. He was the kind of kid who gave his birthday and Christmas money to charity because it was something he felt he could do. He was a deeply thoughtful and caring human being.”  

As a youngster, Dexter showed an early aptitude for science and math, but as he moved into his teenage years, a talent for music shone through and quickly became his passion. He played trumpet and saxophone, spending hour after hour practicing in his room. Every now and then, Dexter would be found sound asleep on his bed with one of his treasured instruments still cradled in his hand. On a trip to Calgary with his dad to pick up a soprano saxophone he’d spotted for sale, Dexter declared his intention to pursue a degree in music.   

“He thought I’d be disappointed and encourage him to go into sciences instead,” says Dan. “I was thrilled to hear he was planning to follow his passion. He would have been great at whatever he decided to do.”  

Sadly, very soon after making this declaration, Dexter unexpectedly passed away. At a loss for how to deal with his son’s sudden death and a desire to do something positive in the wake of a tremendous loss, Dan created the Dexter Johnson Memorial Award.  

“Dexter gave to others in all kinds of ways,” says Dan. “This fund is an extension of his kind spirit and generosity in support of university students on the same path he wanted to take.”  

In keeping with Dexter's character, a memorial initiative was set up that acquired instruments for the Winston Churchill High School band.  

“Dexter was a talented musician from the very first day he picked up his trumpet,” says Karly Lewis, Dexter’s middle school band teacher. "His quiet energy in class, positive comments and ways, support of others and willingness to try new things in band made him a leader in the room.”  

The Dexter Johnson Memorial Award will create a scholarship for students pursuing a degree in music. The fundraising goal-raising target for the fund is $25,000, which will create an endowment that will be held in perpetuity. Thanks to the Board of Governor’s $10 million match fund campaign, once the fund reaches this total, it will be matched dollar for dollar, effectively doubling the good it will do. All donations to the fund are greatly appreciated by Dexter’s family and those who knew him. 

Together, we inspire leaders, innovators, thinkers and doers.

Learn more about giving at ULethbridge and the Board of Governors’ $10 million pledge to match funds for the establishment of endowed student scholarships.

Read the 2022-2023 Donor Impact Report