Finding strength in life challenges, Adair White-Johnson, ’86, inspires others to make positive changes and to persevere through difficult times
Dr. Adair White-Johnson, ’86, describes her high school years as tumultuous. Her mother passed away when White-Johnson was 14-years-old, and her grades suffered badly. She spent her childhood living between the Bahamas — her father’s home country — and Brooklyn, where she lived with her grandmother, two sisters, and a brother.
But despite her grades, she says Daemen College saw something positive in her. Attending the college was the chance that would lead to an exceptional career path, including a doctorate, a 26-year tenure as a high school counselor, and a distinction as a best-selling author.
“No one ever gave me anything but a chance. I turned it into an opportunity at Daemen, earning a degree in psychology,” White-Johnson explains. “I would not be where I am or who I am today without the opportunities I received from the onset in college. The faculty and staff understood and supported me.”
White-Johnson notes that Daemen helped her participate in the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) that provides economically disadvantaged residents of New York with funding for college. After earning her degree, she went on to receive a master’s degree in school counseling and a doctorate in the sociology of education from the University at Buffalo.
Counselor and Author
White-Johnson began her career as a counselor at McKinley High School in Buffalo. Having met her husband in Buffalo, the couple eventually moved to Atlanta where he joined the police department. She served as a school counselor in Marietta, Ga., and taught graduate courses at Georgia State University, as well as summer courses at Indiana University. The couple raised four sons and a daughter and currently reside in Atlanta, where he is now a police detective.
After a 26-year career in counseling, White-Johnson made the decision to retire and use her talents in other ways. She wrote her first book, “Get Over It! How to Bounce Back After Hitting Rock Bottom,” based on her own life experiences. That book is now in its third installment in a series and has placed her among Amazon’s Best Selling Authors.
“I overcame many hardships in my life and wanted to share w hat I learned to empower and inspire others to ‘get over it’ and make positive changes in life,” she says. “I also wrote a version of the book for teenage rs based on my experience as a counselor.”
White-Johnson has written more than five other books, including a collection of inspirational and motivational quotes designed to help readers achieve the success they seek.
Empowering the Fight Against Lupus
When White-Johnson was a student at Daemen, she was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. She has battled the effects of the debilitating disease for more than a quarter century and shares her experiences in her book, “Get Over It! 7 Steps to Living Well with Lupus.”
The book also became an Amazon best-seller, offering messages designed to encourage positive changes for those who have been diagnosed or are affected by lupus. White-Johnson was the 2012 “Face of Lupus” for the Lupus Foundation of America, Georgia Chapter.
Grace, Faith, and Mercy
Throughout her life, White-Johnson says she has followed the motto “always lean on your triple shields of grace, faith, and mercy” to face the challenges she encountered. When her mother passed, White-Johnson lived with her grandmother who everyone in the neighborhood affectionately called Mom Belk. “She helped me develop a spiritual side to always have faith, to move with grace, and to remember to be merciful to others. We are all facing challenges,” White-Johnson explains.
She leaned on that spirituality often as she balanced her counseling career, her doctoral studies, family responsibilities, and the stress of battling lupus. She says all those experiences formed the basis for her writing and business ventures, all aimed at helping others overcome challenges.
“I always knew I wanted to do something to help people, which is why I majored in psychology with a minor in education at Daemen,” she points out. “Over my career, I learned what I teach people today — you need to live in your truth. Ask the tough questions to know who you really are, because that is the only way to achieve your goals. You have to work your dream and live your dream.”
Today, White-Johnson refers to herself as an “empowerologist,” a professional counselor dedicated to motivating, inspiring, and empowering individuals to move toward positive change. From her home base in Atlanta, she operates a unique business boutique comprised of two components.
First, she started the Empowerment House to offer programs to motivate and lead participants to move toward improvements in their lives. In particular, she specializes in helping women and teens build their confidence to become better equipped in pursuing their passion and persevering in their purpose.
She also opened the Johnson Tribe Publishing House to promote, teach, and assist authors to gain specific skills and ser vices to write and publish their own books. In addition, she travels across the country as a motivational speaker, with a special focus on teenagers, presenting at conferences, schools, and colleges.
Coming Back to Daemen
White-Johnson was asked by Daemen to speak at the school’s convocation in 2015 as the college ushered in a new academic year and welcomed students. She said the experience was almost surreal.
“It was so emotional to come full circle back to Daemen where I was given that first chance to transform my life,” she says. “Who would have thought this skinny little kid from Brooklyn would be where I am today? Now that’s empowerment.”
White-Johnson says she returns to Buffalo often, as one of her sons is a student at University at Buffalo, and she is frequently asked to speak at area schools.