AT THE BEGINNING of the spring semester in 1994, the second half of my second year as an undergraduate, I was sitting in a classroom at Florida State University when our professor, bearded, blazered, and bespectacled, walked in silently. He looked at us, slammed his books on the table at the front of the room, and in a clear resonant voice recited the opening lines of Beowulf: ‘Hwæt, wē Gār-Dena in geārdagum, þēodcyninga þrym gefrūnon hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon.’ We jumped. This is how Dave Johnson makes an impression, deep and abiding, on his students, professors, and colleagues. My second year at FSU was Dave's first year, having completed his PhD at Cornell in 1993. From that very first class, Medieval Literature in Translation, I was hooked; over the next year and a half at FSU, through my graduate studies in Ireland, and into my career in medieval literature, Dave Johnson has inspired me, taught me, mentored me, answered my questions, written me countless letters of recommendation, shared his research, and essentially provided the model of what a good scholar, teacher, and colleague should be. In putting together this project, I found that I was far from alone.
Over the last thirty years, Dave Johnson has touched the lives and shaped the careers of dozens of scholars. His professors speak proudly and affectionately of him; his students adore him; and his colleagues respect him. His extensive body of scholarship encompasses Old and Middle English language and literature, Middle Dutch, and Arthuriana. He has translated several works from Dutch and, with Geert H. M. Claassens, has edited and translated five volumes of Middle Dutch literature, opening a whole new world of texts to generations of readers. His research on the Tremulous Hand, Gregory the Great, Beowulf, and Middle Dutch romances is ground-breaking and he has shared that research with his students, encouraging them to find their own avenues of exploration within the field. His mentorship extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom – he shepherds his students long after they have graduated. When I started the annual undergraduate conference in medieval studies at Longwood University with my colleague in history, Steven Isaac, Dave was one of the plenary speakers at our first meeting.