Student athlete is third generation in her family to attend GVSU

Linda, Paige and Chip Johnston are pictured in front of Paige's Laker Village apartment
Linda, Paige and Chip Johnston are pictured in front of Paige's apartment on the Allendale Campus.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

It was always up to Paige Johnston to decide where to go to college. Never mind that her mother and father are Laker alumni. Or that her grandmother attended Grand Valley for a while and her grandfather was a member of the university's pioneer class of 1967.

Paige, now a first-year student and mid-distance runner for the Laker track team, said she wavered between yes or no on Grand Valley until the start of her final semester of high school. 

"I never got any pressure from my parents, only a lot of kidding," she said. 

The Laker track and field team, in the end, sealed the deal, she said. Paige, a middle-distance runner from Benzie Central High School, was unsure she wanted to run collegiately, but said yes to GVSU because of the strength of its academic programs and track team, plus she ran in the Kelly Family Sports Center during high school meets.

Paige Johnston, second from left, with three other women from the track team.
Paige Johnston, second from left, is pictured with other Laker track and field athletes.
courtesy photo
Members of the Laker track and field team with masks on
Members of the Laker track and field team are pictured.
courtesy photo

Paige's father is Joseph "Chip" Johnston, executive director for Manistee-Benzie Community Mental Health, and her mother is Linda (Whalen) Johnston,a dental hygienist. Chip, ’97, earned a master's degree in social work at Grand Valley's Traverse City Center and was part of the first graduating class after the center opened in 1995.

Chip said he looked through university archives several years ago to find information about his father, Joseph Johnston, who died in 2016. "He was a member of the first class, who came in 1963. I learned he was part of the student council and was involved in the debate about what the school colors should be," he said.

Linda earned a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management and was part of the graduating class of 1988, the first year diplomas for graduates read "Grand Valley State University," rather than Grand Valley State College. Later, Linda earned an associate degree in dental hygiene from Grand Rapids Community College.

Chip and Linda met as students on campus through friends; they were also student workers in the Fieldhouse. While the pandemic has kept the Johnstons from attending a Laker track meet in person, they enjoyed watching the Grand Valley Sports Network broadcast of a recent meet. Chip sent a clip of Paige's race to his mother.

Linda said Grand Valley is a good fit for her daughter and offers Paige a community of student athletes. "She was ready to go to school and was well-prepared because of the time she spent at the Manufacturing Technology Academy," she said.

Paige agreed and added it would take an hour to get from her house in Honor to MTA in Traverse City. "So, I would get up around 5 a.m.," she said. MTA is offered through the Traverse Bay Area ISD Career Tech Center and provides a rigorous STEM education and chance to earn college credits to students.

"Along with classes in robotics and engineering, going to MTA helped me create good study habits," Paige said. "My grandpa would be proud that I'm at Grand Valley. He always said to go wherever I would be happy; I'm happy here."

Paige tells her GVSU story in a video below; submit your Grand Valley story in a 60-second video, details are online.

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