Johnson receives Patriot Award for service member support

Sara Johnson holds award and poses with Christie Nixon, Adam Hildebrandt and Alex Holm

Sara Johnson, assistant dean for student and resident affairs for the School of Dentistry, received the Patriot Award on March 15, 2022. 

Sara Johnson and Christie Nixon pose with ESGR award
Johnson receives award from Christie Nixon

Awarded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Patriot Award recognizes “the efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed,” according to the ESGR. The award honors a “patriotic employer, for contributing to national security and protecting liberty and freedom by supporting employee participation in America’s National Guard and Reserve Force'' and is awarded based on nomination. 

Alex Hildebrandt and Adam Holm
Hildebrandt and Holm at Johnson's award ceremony

Adam Hildebrandt, DDS ’22, second lieutenant in the Minnesota Army Reserves National Guard, nominated Johnson for the award in gratitude for her support of Hildebrandt as a student and as a service member. “Her attitude was always, ‘let’s make this work,’ and never, ‘are you sure you have to go during school?,’” he recalled. 

“She was supportive of me attending my Army Trainings and having them completed within the two years of me Commissioning as an officer in the Army,” he explained. Hildebrandt first sought Johnson’s assistance when a training that was originally planned over winter break had to move to February of last year, and again for additional trainings soon after. “Sara quickly adapted and made things happen seamlessly as I had to gear up for missing a month of clinical training and coursework,” he said. “She took tons of stress off my plate to make this transition happen” by working with faculty to ensure lectures were recorded and that there would be no penalties for time missed. In fact, with Johnson’s support, Hildebrandt is on track to graduate with his DDS degree on time this spring. 

“It was a blessing to have Sara on my side as I was navigating these separate month-long Army trainings,” he said. “She went above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed in regards to personal support, as well as offering mental health and other resources on campus that might be helpful.” 

Johnson and Hildebrant pose with Johnson's award
Johnson and Hildebrandt

Johnson was presented with the award at an in-person ceremony in Moos Tower by Christie Nixon, a volunteer with ESGR. Hildebrant was in attendance, along with classmate Alex Holm, DDS ’24, and several faculty, staff and students from the School of Dentistry.  

After receiving the award, Johnson addressed the room and shared her gratitude for Hildebrandt. “Dental school is hard, and you’re doing something equally as hard if not harder,” she said, sharing that her family has personal connections to the military. “I’m just so grateful to you for your service and for your dedication.”