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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Mark Johnson has a remarkable memory

  • Don’t even both asking Mark Johnson if he remembers your name.



    He does.



    Johnson, Pittsburg State University professor of technology and workforce learning, is the local “Mr. Memory,” and frequently gives demonstrations of his  ability to memorize names and faces.

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  • Don’t even both asking Mark Johnson if he remembers your name.
    He does.
    Johnson, Pittsburg State University professor of technology and workforce learning, is the local “Mr. Memory,” and frequently gives demonstrations of his  ability to memorize names and faces.
    “For the past seven years I’ve done this for every freshman class at PSU,” Johnson said.
    He also does it at every one of his classes.
    “The first night of class, I will know every student in that class,” Johnson said. “That’s become a Dr. Johnson classic. The students really like it that they’re not just ‘hey, you,’ that a teacher knows who they are.”
    He said that he’s always had a pretty good memory, but really started developing it after seeing a memory expert years ago on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show.
    “This little bitty professorial looking guy was on, and 200 audience members stood up,” he said. “He remembered all their names.”
    Johnson said there are several memory techniques. He often uses a story that he first heard during a conference at Rock Springs Ranch, focusing on a technique that includes visualization.
    “You paint  picture with your mind,” he said. “It’s my theory that the mind doesn’t learn text, it learns pictures of pages of text. I think the mind doesn’t forget a picture, it forgets words.”
    Johnson said that he can memorize 50 to 100 faces and names.
    “In April of 1988 in San Antonio, Texas I memorized 300 names,” he said. “That was my biggest crowd.”
    Johnson frequently gets tested, nearly every time he goes in a story or restaurant and encounters a former student who challenges him to remember his or her name.
    “If I have a student in front of me for a week, I’ll never forget him or her,” he said. “If I  see the person only once, I might not get it.”
    But he’s come through in some pretty iffy situations.
    “At a national conference in Kansas City, as I was walking through the parking lot, a young woman came up to me,” Johnson said. “She said, ‘Dr. Johnson, I had you in a class three years ago in Arkansas, what’s my name?’ In that time, she had cut  her shoulder-length blonde hair, dyed it red and permed it,  but I remembered her name.”
    However, he denies being any kind of super genius.
    “The secret is, we all have photographic memories,” Johnson said. “If we all work at it, we can do it.”
    He told of doing a presentation at a PEO meeting in which he told the story and memorized a list of names. The late Roberta McNay was at the presentation.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Three weeks later, I was in Walmart and Roberta came around the corner and saw me,” Johnson said. “She said, ‘Do you want the list?’ and I said, ‘Sure, give it to me.’ She gave me the list word perfect, and she was in her 80s at the time. Of course, Roberta was a very remarkable lady.”
    The ability to memorize names isn’t just a gimmick, he added, but has very practical applications in the real world.
    “Think how much better your business would be if you knew everybody who walks in your door and what they want,” he said. “What if you go  in a shoe store and the clerk knows your size and your style?”
    Johnson also remembers numbers well. He served as director of a school organization in Kansas which was comprised of about 60 schools.
    “I knew all their numbers,” he said. “Think of how much time that saves if you don’t have to look up telephone numbers?”
    Johnson also enjoys performing in Pittsburg Community Theatre productions.
    “Every play I’m in, I’m the first one to memorize my part,” he said.
    He doesn’t believe that the healthy brain actually forgets very much.
    “Everything you have ever seen stays there,” Johnson said. “But as you get older, if you don’t tag it and know how to pull it out, those files build and build as you get older . It’s searching through them that gets difficult.”
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