Tribute to Dennis Johnson, Former Director of Sport

The University of Technology, Jamaica community deeply regrets the passing of our former and first Director of Sport, colleague and friend, Mr. Dennis Johnson who died on Thursday, April 22, 2021 following a period of illness. We express sincere condolences to his family and friends and pray that they will be comforted and strengthened to cope with the challenge of his passing.

Coached by the legendary Herb McKenley, famed athlete Dennis Johnson’s influence and contribution to sports development in Jamaica is renowned.  Affectionately called “DJ,” he began his celebrated career at Calabar High School from where he went on to make the noteworthy contribution to athletics, coaching and sports administration in Jamaica.

At Calabar he became Jamaica’s fastest runner in the 100 and 200 yards sprint events. In 1959 he defeated Olympic champions in the 200 metres.     At the San Jose State University from which he graduated with a degree in Physical Education, he further proved his prowess on the track, running four world record times in the 100 metres in six weeks to become the fastest man in the world at the time.

He served as Director of the Carreras Sports Foundation and Chairman of its Awards Committee for more than 20 years, before joining the then College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST) in 1971 to build a sports programme at the institution.  Under his watch, an enviable sports programme was built at CAST/UTech, Jamaica. The legacy of the sports programme includes the institution being Inter-collegiate champions for twenty-five consecutive years, being awarded  eight shields at the Penn Relays and the record as the only college outside of the USA to win the Championship of America Award.

In 1995 he forged a strategic partnership with fellow renowned coach, Stephen Francis, which later resulted in the establishment of a home for the MVP Track and Field Club at UTech, Jamaica.  This partnership has consistently produced acclaimed world class athletes and Olympians such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Asafa Powell which has elevated the position of the University as the “Home of World Class Athletes” and by extension, Jamaica as world beaters in track and field.

Another milestone achievement was Dennis Johnson’s instrumentality in the establishment of the IAAF High Performance Training Centre on the University’s Papine Campus in 2001, that saw the likes of Usain Bolt and Jermaine Gonzales training on the University’s back field under the guidance and expertise of the highly successful coach, Glen Mills.

In 2006, he retired from his position of Director of Sport at UTech, Jamaica. In his over 35 years of service to the institution, Dennis Johnson served in many capacities including as Chairman of the CAST Educational Foundation launched in 1988, the University’s  Sports Advisory Council; adjunct Associate Professor of Sport Science in the Faculty of Science and Sport and led several special projects for intercollegiate sports.

He was conferred with the Order of Distinction by the Jamaica Government in 2001. In 2008 the University of Technology, Jamaica conferred on him the award of Doctor of Technology, Honoris Causa in recognition of his contribution to the development of sport at the University and in Jamaica.  In 2012, the former “track house” residential facility for student athletes on the UTech, Jamaica Papine Campus was renamed The Dennis Johnson Hall of Residence in his honour.

The University Community treasures one of our most recent interactions with “DJ” on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary Distinguished Public Lecture titled  “ Dennis Johnson, UTech, Jamaica and the Jamaican Sprint Factory”  on March 7, 2019 which I had the honour of delivering.

May the legacy of his tireless, visionary work in laying the foundation for the development of track and field in Jamaica continue to inspire a generation of athletes for a very long time to come.

Prof. Colin Gyles, PhD
President (Acting)

Mr. Dennis Johnson (left) responds to questions during the Question and Answer session at the Distinguished Public Lecture titled  “ Dennis Johnson, UTech, Jamaica and the Jamaican Sprint Factory” presented by Professor Colin Gyles on March 7, 2019 at the UTech, Jamaica Papine Campus.


Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 876 970-5299