No matter what path he followed, Marty Johnson always found his way back to Wartburg College. After setting foot on campus for the first time in 1979, he knew there would be a lifetime of memories to follow. 

“It’s just always felt like home,” said Johnson, director of dining services at Wartburg College, “which is probably why I kept coming back.” 

After graduating in 1983 from Wartburg with a business administration degree, he took a job as an admissions counselor for the college. 

“It’s funny how it all worked out,” said Johnson. “I did have a business degree and could use those organizational skills for my job in admissions, but it was more about getting to work with the students.”

His passion for working with students grew so much that Johnson said he decided to continue his education to get a master’s degree in guidance counseling. However, after graduate school, Marty took a job as a manager for Red Lobster.

“I guess you could say I got distracted and then spent 25 years in the restaurant business,” Johnson said. 

After working at Red Lobster as a general manager for over 20 years, Johnson returned to Wartburg once again in 2013. He started as an assistant director of dining services, moved on to become an associate director, and then settled into his current position as director. 

“But I look at where I’m at now. I’ve taken the enjoyment of working with students and the food service knowledge and really put that together. Now I have a chance to do both,” Johnson said.

Johnson shows his clear passion for working with people every day through his interactions with coworkers and students, a colleague said. The comfortable, home-like environment drew Johnson to love Wartburg, so he treats his peers like family.


Bethany Myers, Mensa manager and student employment coordinator at Wartburg College, has worked with Johnson for six or seven years. She started shortly before he was hired.

“He always makes it a point to ask about our personal lives, not just the work environment,” said Myers. “I do appreciate that.”

It is clear to Myers and others who work with him, Marty Johnson represents the dining services in a way that honors Wartburg’s core values.

“It’s food service, but it’s a lot of other things,” said Johnson. “I mean, it comes down to the people. It’s really all about working with people and about the people we’re serving.”

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