UP alumna and regent Pat Johnson honored as a 'woman of influence'

By Dora Totoian | April 27, 2017 9:02am


Photo courtesy of Pat Johnson.

University of Portland alumna Patricia (Pat) Johnson was honored last Thursday by the Portland Business Journal at its 14th annual “Women of Influence Awards” event. Johnson is a University of Portland alumna (‘86) with a degree in Communications Management.

The Women of Influence Awards honor 25 women who have “made a difference in their communities, blazed a trail for the rest of us and are leaving a mark on the Pacific Northwest community.” Candidates are nominated, and the newspaper chooses the finalists based on professional accomplishments, community leadership, and awards and milestones.

After graduating from UP, Johnson worked at ad agencies in Portland and Los Angeles and as the marketing director at KGW before starting her own ad agency, JohnsonSheen Advertising, at age 26. She says she has always been creatively inclined, and recalled that as a resident assistant at UP, she would put residents’ artwork on the wall.

“I wanted a career where I could always blend creativity and business,” Johnson said. “Most interesting to me is what happens at the intersection of creativity and business.”

In 2005, JohnsonSheen changed its name to North, and five years later, she sold the company to the management team. She had realized that she was passionate not only about advertising products, but about creating them.

“The best marketing is not just an ad campaign — the best marketing is a great product, ultimately a culture in the company that delivers the product and how it expresses itself in the world,” Johnson said. “An ad agency only manages the expression, and I wanted to design the quality of the product in the first place.”

In 2005, Johnson founded Root Whole Body, a business venture borne from a highly personal experience — her battle with cancer.

While Johnson considered the hospital to be the best care from a medical standpoint, she wished it had provided her with more “life-affirming” solutions and ways to take care of herself. As a result, she founded Root Whole Body, a company through which Johnson strives to combine her experience in advertising with what she believes in philosophically.

Root Whole Body is a holistic health center that provides a natural medicine clinic and a wellness spa in one location.

“There (was) not a consistent place to get (natural/holistic medicine). It’s all over town,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t thinking about business then. I was just remembering my experience, thinking ‘How come there’s no place that brings this all together?’”

The company has one location and will open a flagship location in North Portland in May. The new location will include two yoga and movement studios, a health café, a teaching kitchen, a natural health clinic and a spa, all aiming to bring clients a sense of pause Johnson believes is often absent in day-to-day life.

Johnson also serves on the University’s Board of Regents, a role she considers highly rewarding.

“I can’t imagine a more principled, full-of-integrity group of people, along with Holy Cross priests, committed to ensuring all the values of a Catholic education and preservation of original mission of the University are carried out,” Johnson said.

Johnson also considers the award from the Portland Business Journal an honor, and said she is humbled to be considered in the company of the other high-caliber award recipients. But she also says she knows an award doesn’t mean the work is done and views it as encouragement to keep going.

She says her desire to strive for excellence represents her belief that to go from good to great in any realm, people have to “lean in” to the work they’re doing.

“If you’re going to be the best mother, colleague or volunteer — lean in, follow your first instinct, follow your heart,” she said.