It was in September 1967 that the teaching window of opportunity opened for Dr. John Sallstrom. You could say that it was his destiny as both of his parents were teachers, but more notably, it was his passion for learning that drove him toward teaching. He enjoyed learning by interacting with students. It was this desire for knowledge and a deep concern for others that would transform his labors into great achievements at Georgia College and in the community.
Sallstrom began his career at Georgia College as an assistant professor of philosophy and religion. He was also the chair of the department. After two professorship promotions, Sallstrom was named as an assistant vice president for Academic Administration in 1987 and associate vice president in 1992. For seven months, he served as the acting dean of Arts and Sciences. Sallstrom then became the acting vice president for academic services. Even though he was an administrator, Sallstrom continued to teach at least one course each term as it was important for him to maintain contact with students in the classroom.
As associate vice president of academic services, Sallstrom was tasked with supervising the Honors and Scholars program, which he helped form in 1970. At that time, the college had become coed and integrated. Although many students were required to take remedial classes, and many of the university’s programs were designed to support those needed efforts, Sallstrom and other faculty aspired to provide programs for individuals who excelled. Together with the Southern Regional Honors Council, Sallstrom and his colleagues established the Georgia Collegiate Honors Council. He served as the council’s administrative coordinator for 10 years.
Besides serving as coordinator of academic advisement, Sallstrom supervised the Advising and Career Exploration Center, the Career Center, the International Education program, the Department of Learning Services and Orientation programs, the retention program, special activities and projects, learning accommodations, pre-professional programs, the outdoor education program and the military science program. Yet, as busy as he was, Sallstrom states, “I tried to attend as many student events as I could to show support for their activities.”
He also established the Honors and Scholars Endowment Fund in December 1996 to honor faculty, staff and students involved in the Honors and Scholars program and to support advances in this program as part of the university’s mission.
“Most of the time I was involved with the program we operated on less than a shoestring budget,” says Sallstrom. “I wanted to make sure my successors had a stable source of support in the future.”
“One of my original goals when I came to Georgia College was to establish a philosophy major program, but that didn't happen during my tenure,” reflects Sallstrom. “However, I am glad there is now a philosophy major as an integral part of the liberal arts mission. In order to support that program and show appreciation for recognition as one of ‘the 125 most influential’ during the recent 125th Anniversary Celebration, I established the John E. Sallstrom '94 HA Endowed Scholarship in Ethics and Philosophy and was pleased that the Georgia College Foundation provided matching money.”
In 2005, Sallstrom retired after 38 years of service at Georgia College. Upon his retirement, the Sallstrom Scholars Award was established for the Honors and Scholars program that he founded. He also received the first John E. Sallstrom Lifetime Service Award from Eta Sigma Alpha – the honors student association.
“This recognition from the students was the most moving,” says Sallstrom. “I was also honored to have the Red Cross Blood Drive named for me. I hope this kind of recognition will encourage others to find ways to be of service to others.”
And, serving others is what he did. One of the many facets of Sallstrom’s community leadership activities includes forming the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. It began when he was appointed as a member of the local Human Relations Commission. Through this commission, Sallstrom chaired an exploratory committee to find ways to form good relationships within the community through building decent homes with those in need. He first heard about Habitat for Humanity in 1979 when a student invited him to Americus to see the first Habitat houses being built.
“That planted the seed that eventually grew into our local affiliate,” he states.
Sallstrom became one of three incorporators of the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate in 1994 and the first president. Now, he serves as an emeritus member.
“I had an opportunity to interact with many different kinds of individuals in the community whom I would not have met otherwise and felt we did have some success in improving the local housing situation as well as building good relationships with the college,” says Sallstrom.
He has also served as a campus representative on the GC Alumni Board, charter member of the GC Omicron Delta Kappa Circle – the national leadership honor society, president of the Old Capital Kiwanis Club, chair of the Allied Arts Board and the Community Concert Association, chair of the local Salvation Army Advisory Board, chair of the GC Wesley Foundation, president of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Ministerial Association and has twice been president of GC’s Learning in Retirement. Currently, Sallstrom serves as a member of the Division of Family and Children Services Board, secretary on the Maranatha Outreach Board, chair of the Oconee Regional Medical Center Ethics Committee and member of the Baldwin County Retired Educators.
“Dr. Sallstrom contributed greatly toward making Georgia College the institution it is today, and he continues to add value to the university through his ongoing involvement,” says GC President Dr. Steve Dorman. “His example as a teacher, leader and community servant perfectly exemplifies our ideal of building a culture of learning through community-based experiences.”
In appreciation for Sallstrom’s service to GC and the community, his friends and colleagues established the Hemphill-Sallstrom Faculty-Staff Honors Award to also honor Dr. Ralph W. Hemphill, who served in several academic roles including vice president and dean of faculties, from 1968 until 2002. This award recognizes retired faculty and staff who have contributed outstanding service to Georgia College.
Since retiring from GC, Sallstrom dons a watch engraved with the words “with gratitude” that he received from the 1970 – 2005 Honors Alumni. The Eta Sigma Alpha Honors Student Association gave him a “Knight of Honor” clock that he keeps on his desk.
“Both remind me of all these good students and help me stay on time,” says Sallstrom. “Recognition from peers is significant, but appreciation from students is most touching.”