Spencer C. Johnson Obituary

Posted on November 15, 2019

Spencer JohnsonSpencer Johnson, former president of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, died on Friday, November 8 from injuries resulting from a fall in his Okemos home on November 7 - his 75th birthday.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Julianne, and his three sons: Charlie (Carrie), Jamie (Kristin), and Steven. As an only child, he considered his two brothers-in-law Ed Wagner (Elaine) and Steve Wagner (Ann), his own siblings, and he loved being uncle Spence to his niece Molly and his nephews Eddie & Simon. When his own grandchildren arrived, he relished being Papa to Delaney, Dylan, Kendall, Kelsey and Riley, and he felt blessed to have them all living nearby.

Spence and Julianne grew up in Olean, New York. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a degree in journalism and spent the next three years as an Army Captain stationed in Korea. After his discharge and a master's degree from Cornell University, he began his career in health policy and advocacy. He was a staffer for Rep. James Hastings and then Senator Jacob Javits, and ended his time in Washington, D.C. working for President Gerald R. Ford as an associate director of the White House Domestic Council. He returned to New York State in 1978 and became Vice President of the Hospital Association of New York State.

The Johnson family moved to Michigan in 1985 and Spence became President of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) - a position he enjoyed for the next thirty years. In short order, Spence became a passionate Spartan fan and a regular at deer camp every November. He absolutely loved life and work at the MHA, and the entire association became his second family.

During his time leading the MHA, among many other major accomplishments, Spence launched the MHA Keystone Center in 2003 to reduce medical errors and improve overall safety and quality of care, saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars. Throughout his career, Spence worked tirelessly to protect access, coverage and care for all.

He served on many boards during his professional career and into retirement. Notably, he served as a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan board member for 22 years and served as Vice Chairman from 2008 to 2017. He was honored with many awards and tributes throughout the years; he received the Meritorious Service Award, the MHA's highest honor, for his work to protect patients and providers. In 2001, Spence was given the American Hospital Association Trustees Award in recognition of efforts to improve federal health policy and funding. His favorite award was in 2012 when the MHA was designated as one of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare in the United States.

In 2015, he reluctantly retired from MHA so he could spend more quality time with the family he cherished - and his Korean War era Jeep, his cabin in Clare, and his working Civil War cannons. Many lunches with former colleagues and friends kept him feeling connected to the current developments in the healthcare arena. He - and his dry and self-deprecating wit - will be fondly remembered.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home located at 900 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. the following day, Nov. 14, at St. Martha's Catholic Church located at 1100 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos.


The MHA invites you to share your memories and condolences with the Johnson family and the entire MHA family. Messages sent here will be compiled by MHA staff and shared with the Johnsons. Read more from the MHA about Spencer's legacy.


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  • Spencer C. Johnson Obituary

Tags: Spencer Johnson

Posted in: News Releases, Member News

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