UCLA on Friday unveiled the Betsy and Rafer Johnson Track at Drake Stadium, honoring the track and field legend and his wife with their names on the home of UCLA track and field.
At a ceremony in Drake Stadium, Chancellor Gene Block said that UCLA’s 100th anniversary is a time to reflect on who shaped this world-class institution, and that Rafer and Betsy Johnson are high on this list.
“The Johnsons are two of the most selfless individuals I have met,” Block said. “Betsy and Rafer bleed blue and gold. We couldn’t think of two better UCLA ambassadors.”
Dan Guerrero, UCLA’s Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics, said that “the Johnson family embodies everything we stand for.”
Rafer Johnson received the UCLA Medal, UCLA’s highest honor, in 2016. He medaled in the Olympic decathlon in 1956 while still a student, and after graduation returned to the Olympics in 1960 to win gold. In 1960, he was captain of the American Olympic Team, and the first African American to carry the American flag in the opening ceremonies. He worked on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign and helped found the Special Olympics. In 1984, he carried the torch on its final leg for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, lighting the cauldron to begin the games. He served as UCLA’s student body president in 1959.
Betsy Johnson earned her B.A. in education at UCLA, and, Guerrero said, “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Rafer for nearly 50 years.” She appeared deeply touched by today's event and said, “I knew this would be emotional, but not this emotional!”
At today’s ceremony, their daughter, Jenny, a member of UCLA’s 1991 national champion volleyball team, said she was asked through her childhood who her role models were. “My role models are my parents,” she said. “They were our role models then, and still are to this day.”