People of Preston Harvey johnston

People of Preston is a campaign created to share the stories behind the faces that have shaped Western Kentucky University’s Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center over the years. The regular patrons and students are who make up the face of our facility. This campaign allows for our department to build trust and relationships with already loyal members to hopefully connect personally with even more of our Bowling Green community.

Story by: Hayley Robb

Photos by: Matthew Hamilton & Hayley Robb

Video by: Hayley Robb

The Preston Center was Harvey Johnston's gateway to Western Kentucky University when it opened in 1992. He has been involved with WKU for nearly 25 years. However, the "honorary alum" actually never attended WKU. Johnston, who is a realtor and lawyer from Louisville, Kentucky, went to Sewanee: The University of the South and graduated from law school at the University of Louisville.

Pictured from left: College Heights Foundation Board of Directors Dr. Donald Smith, Harvey Johnston and Alex Downing.

What has drawn Johnston to WKU and, more specifically, to the Preston Center, is not only the facility but the students.

"I love the students at the Preston Center because most of them are hardworking," Johnston said. "They have jobs here either at the Preston Center and are involved with the university and they're all good kids and they're all appreciative of the education that they're getting here at Western."

Johnston said he tries to reward the students by occasionally stopping by and giving the faces he recognizes gift certificates to local restaurants and enjoys hearing how they end up using his gift. He said one young man ended up taking his mother out to dinner for Mother's Day and the other young man took his girlfriend out on a date.

Johnston also endows a need-based scholarship at WKU with preference given to students who work at the Preston Center.

"I told the people at the College Heights Foundation if there's ever a good kid from the Preston Center that would be one of my priorities to who might get the scholarship or a part of the scholarship," Johnston said.

Johnston said he visits the Preston Center about two or three times a week and uses the Bill Powell Natatorium to swim frequently.

"I'm 72 years old, were it not for the Preston Center, I would probably not be in as good of shape as I think that I am," Johnston said laughing.

However, Johnston's dedication to the Preston Center extends from the active lifestyle he said he has held in the past. He played tennis all throughout high school and college and then started running. He ran the New York City marathon twice and then began competing in triathlons soon after that. He said he once ran two marathons within two weeks of each other – one in New York City and the other in Louisville.

"And then when the body starts to break down a little bit more, pilates and swimming is an excellent choice," Johnston said.

Johnston said a typical swim workout is spent working on the backstroke.

"A typical swim workout for me is not quite as vigorous as Coach Powell's but I do try to swim 72 lengths," Johnston said.

Johnston competes in meets on the state and national level.

"And that sounds like 'Oh, you must be a good swimmer.' Not really. There's just not that many 72 year olds that can still swim a 200-yard backstroke," he said.

Johnston said he hopes the Preston Center will continue to develop as the university continues to develop, as well. He said he thinks the students are more interested in physical fitness than they were 20 or 30 year ago.

"Students love when they come to a college campus to look at the recreational facilities and the Preston Center has really gone above and beyond what has taken place at a lot of the other universities here in the country," Johnston said.

The Preston Center is a place where the student body develops. Johnston said the Preston Center is and will remain a special place to him because it allows him to get to know the students that are working in the facility while also maintaining an active lifestyle.

Brad Hutsell is one of the students Johnston has gotten to know while coming in and out of the Preston Center.

"The Preston Center is more than a gym to me because of the friendliness of the staff and the facilities and the students and the livelihood that's generated and the enthusiasm that's generated within the facility," Johnston said.

Created By
Hayley Robb


Photos by: Matthew Hamilton & Hayley Robb

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