Nancy J. Johnstone passed away peacefully on May 25, 2016, in the University of Chicago’s Center for Care and Discovery Hospital. A Hyde Park resident for 55 years, she was 83 at the time of her death.
Johnstone was born in Detroit to Harold and Pearl Stavers on August 2, 1932.
Widely known for her generosity, graciousness, and warmth, Johnstone was an accomplished professional woman. She received her B.A. from Wittenberg University in Ohio, and in 1954 enrolled in the prestigious School of Social Service Administration (SSA) at the University of Chicago (U. of C.). There, she met her future Canadian-born husband, John Johnstone and within a year had moved with him to Ottawa where she earned her Masters degree in Social Work at Carleton University. Nancy and John returned to Hyde Park in 1961 and two sons were born to the family.
Johnstone began her career as a social worker at Youth Guidance, a social service agency, located in downtown Chicago. Youth Guidance is noted for its high-quality, innovative school-based programs targeted to Chicago’s at-risk children and youth. For 32 years, Johnstone served as the Executive Director of Youth Guidance. She was instrumental in establishing, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the first full-time offices within area schools, thus laying the foundation for innovative school-based initiatives. Today, this capacity building in-school programming is the cornerstone of Youth Guidance, directly serving more than 8500 youth. Under Johnstone’s leadership, the agency grew from a budget of $100, 000 and eight staff members to one of $5 million with more than 100 dedicated staff. Johnstone retired from Youth Guidance in 2005 only to take on the co-leadership of the Hyde Park-based Chicago Child Care Society, the oldest existing child welfare agency in Illinois. In 2012, at 79, she retired from CCCS.
For 18 years Johnstone was a lecturer at U. of C., teaching both social work and professional development, and she was a Life Member of SSA’s Visiting Committee. In 1994, Johnstone received a Public Services Citation from the U. of C. Alumni Association for exemplary leadership in voluntary service. In addition to being an advocate for at-risk youth, Johnstone rallied for Chicago’s professional women; among other things, she was a life member of The Chicago Network, an organization of women in professional leadership positions throughout the Chicago area.
In addition to traveling in Europe, the family spent many summers in Southwest Michigan, where Johnstone enjoyed gardening and swimming. She loved planning holidays and celebratory events with her family and delighted in visiting her sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Jim Leighton, both now deceased, in San Diego.
Johnstone is survived by her loving husband John and her sons Eric and Bruce. A celebration of life for Johnstone will be held later this summer. Donations may be sent to Youth Guidance or the Chicago Child Care Society.