NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors Welcomes Marty Johnstone as President 
By Lia Kizilbash Gillet

Marty Johnstone ’09, M.B.A. ’21, named NIU Alumni
Board of Directors president. (Photo: Amy Warner)

Marty Johnstone, ’09, M.B.A. ’21, is a compassionate leader in the NIU alumni community—he’s all heart and ALL Huskie.

“My friends will tell you that I breathe and bleed NIU,” Johnstone said.

The NIU community has always played a pivotal role in shaping Johnstone’s identity and contributing to his happiness, which makes serving as the president of the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors, beginning July 1, 2024, a tremendous honor. He looks forward to further strengthening the bond between alumni and the university. 

Previously serving as vice president (2023-2024), Johnstone is no stranger to the board. 
“Over my 5-year tenure on the board, I was involved in various committees and have been able to work with wonderfully talented people,” Johnstone remarked. “It has been very fulfilling, and I am excited to follow some inspirational leaders who served as president. Pete Garrity, ’71, M.B.A. ’76, Joe Sener, ’93, M.S. ’10, and Rich Escalante, ’74, M.P.A. ’78, shared one very distinctive attribute: they are dedicated to NIU and Huskie alumni.”

Johnstone is also immensely dedicated. He hopes to continue moving the board forward with his high energy and creativity while empowering every board member to bring fresh ideas to grow engagement and expand involvement opportunities. He explains how alumni can play an important role at their alma mater.

“While a student at NIU, I was fortunate enough to work with extremely talented professors, staff and peers,” Johnstone said. “I grew intellectually and strengthened my emotional intelligence. NIU helped shape my way of thinking and provided many great experiences to apply that thinking before entering the ‘real world.’ While my experience was amazing, I know that the future of NIU needs continued growth to build on our historic foundation. A large part of the university’s growth depends on the strength and dedication of NIU’s alumni network to get involved and give back.”

Johnstone is also the Huskie Marching Band Alumni Council’s immediate past president (2017-2024) and an active member. He was motivated to join the council after pivotal experiences as a Huskie Marching Band student. One of these was seeing students forced to drop out due to financial reasons.

“Many of my fellow Huskie Marching Band members had to drop out because of the time commitment," Johnstone said. "They had to work instead so they could pay for school. I thought it was unfair that because of their financial situation, dedicated and passionate people were forced to choose to either work or be a part of the group.”

Johnstone joined the Huskie Marching Band Alumni Council and its fundraising efforts to help students in financial need. His interest in service and community involvement, however, evolved earlier in Johnstone’s youth. His dad was a firefighter and served on the commissions for the department. Johnstone recalls laying in bed, unable to fall asleep until he heard his father come home from meetings, not because he missed his dad, but because he had the innate curiosity and interest in hearing his father debrief with his mom about everything that happened at the meeting. He says the itch to get involved in something bigger than himself and to give back to his community built over the years, and NIU alumni engagement opportunities offered that.

Described by his peers as someone who is willing to volunteer for anything, Johnstone highlights why he eagerly raises his hand to help.

Marty Johnstone shows his Huskie pride during an M.B.A. trip
to Greece. (Photo: Marty Johnstone)

“If I can assist in any way by moving something forward or talking to someone, I am there for it. It might seem small at the time, but I believe those small things start to build up and one person can have a great impact in the end.” 

Growing up in Summit, Illinois, Johnstone came from a long family line of firefighters who were very active in their community, sitting on various village boards and committees. He remembers passing out voter materials at only ten years old and, until about 12 years old, he dreamed of also becoming a firefighter.

“One day, while hanging out in my grandfather’s basement, which was also home to a construction company he ran with my uncle, I watched in awe as a computer was being set up and configured by an IT guy my grandfather hired,” shared Johnstone. “I was mesmerized by the installing of Windows 3.1 from a command line prompt and was instantly hooked. I wanted to watch, learn, and understand everything I could about computers and technology."

Johnstone redefined his dream and his family was very supportive. He came to NIU for the Operations Management & Information Systems (OM&IS) program and he was the first one from his immediate family to graduate from college.

Today, as a product manager for RF Code, which focuses on active RFID (radio frequency identification) for customers who own or operate data centers, Johnstone assists the RF Code sales team throughout the sales process for the company’s top customers. After many years, what still excites Johnstone about IT is solving customers’ needs.

“I talk to CIOs and executives and translate information between the customer and engineering working to find a solution to fulfill their needs,” he said. “It helps that I love to talk, too. My grandmother passed along to me her gift to gab!”

Before moving into product management in 2022, Johnstone was a sales engineer with the company. He was also the IT Asset Management Team lead and a Data Center Engineering Team project manager for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he first started as an intern while a student at NIU. Johnstone has been asked to speak at multiple industry conferences on IT asset management and the RFID space.

When he's not at work, Johnstone prioritizes family, friends and his girlfriend, Amy Warner. He spends time exercising to maintain his physical and mental health, working on home construction projects, and cleaning his car, admitting a slight obsession. Johnstone completed three marathons before hanging up his shoes in 2015 after running the New York City Marathon. 

Drawing from his perseverance and diligence used during marathon training, Johnstone completed the Executive M.B.A. program at NIU in 2021. He also credits the program’s schedule and his family’s support for this achievement.

Johnstone is grateful for his family and the many people who helped to guide and support him, but his late grandfather, Robert Jarosik, was unequivocally the most influential person in his life.

Top: Marty Johnstone gathers with his mother (Elaine), father 
(Don) and girlfriend (Amy) for a photo. (Photo: Marty Johnstone) 
Bottom: Marty Johnstone sits between his encouraging and
influential late maternal grandparents at his NIU graduation.
After over 50 years of marriage, both passed in 2020 just 26
days apart. (Photo: Marty Johnstone)

“I could go on for hours about him, but he always pushed me to be the best I could be,” said Johnstone. “He often would ask about my challenges and successes with life and work and provide inspirational guidance. He was genuinely interested in my answers and very encouraging. He would say, ‘Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Be humble. Don’t push something off tomorrow when you can do it today.’ Everyone knew him. His license plate said ‘Summit,’ reflecting his passion and respect for his community; many people thought he was the mayor!”

Having learned so much from his grandfather, Johnstone recognizes the significance and power of connecting generations. He describes NIU as “a place for past, current, and future generations to grow beyond anything one could think. NIU is a place to discover who you are and your greater purpose in the world.”

“It truly is a great time to be a Huskie,” said Johnstone. “The bond between the university, NIU Foundation, NIU Alumni Association, and DeKalb community has never been stronger with everyone making large efforts to build for the future of NIU. NIU is very lucky to have such an intelligent and passionate leader in Dr. Lisa Freeman. Under her leadership, the vibe around campus has never been more electric. There is so much happening behind the scenes and without fanfare to guarantee a promising future.”

Johnstone's life and leadership have been enriched by the people he surrounds himself with and he often, indisputably, chooses Huskies.

“I think the Alumni Association board for fiscal year 2025 consists of diverse and talented individuals,” Johnstone said. “We have also added seven new board members who are very excited to get to work. This combination is encouraging, and I expect our board to work very hard.”

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