Grave of Otto Marion John.

Photo courtesy of T&C Lloyd. Source: Find a Grave,

John, Otto Marion (1883–1938)

By Katherine Turk, and Edward Allen


Katherine Turk is a senior student at Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska. She is studying English, writing and speaking, and secondary English language arts.

Edward Allen, D.Min., Ph.D., served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor from 1975 to 2005. In that year he joined the faculty of Union College where he began serving as Chair of the Division of Religion in 2017. His areas of interest are the Sabbath and Church History. His doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminar was on, “Nicholas Bownde and the Context of Sunday Sabbatarianism.”

First Published: January 29, 2020

Otto Marion John was a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist educator and administrator.

Early Life

Otto Marion John was born on August 23, 1883 in Great Grimsby, England.1 His father, Adelbert Allen John (1856-1921), born and raised in Illinois, was a denominational worker sent to England in 1881 by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. There, Adelbert John met and, on April 14, 1880, married Ella Hanson, who was born in Denmark in 1857. O. M. John had an older brother, Walton C. John (1881-1942), and two younger sisters, Mrs. Nena E. Cory (1888-unknown) and Mrs. Jesse Elenor Greenup (1890-1983). When O. M. John was six years old his family moved back to America. He attended grade school in Iowa and Michigan and later moved with his family to Mexico City, Mexico where his father was a minister at the Mexican Mission. John, a Seventh-day Adventist his whole life, said that his parents’ influence and example of faith inspired him to also have faith in God and the Bible and to value Christian peers, teachers, and schooling.2

Education and Marriage

While in Mexico City, O. M. John attended Mary Keener Institute and graduated in 1903. He then attended Southwestern Junior College in Texas, and later, Union College in Nebraska, where he graduated in 1908.3 After graduating from Union College John headed to Mount Vernon College where he fell in love with Deborah Ann Secor (1887-1971).4 A large group of guests witnessed their marriage on the lawn of “Elmhurst Cottage” on August 9, 1911.5 On May 25, 1912 Edward Allen John, their oldest son, was born (died 1987).6 While in Washington D.C. and Maryland they had their second child, Donald Lee John, born on February 8, 1917 (died 2017).7 Though there are no records of their daughter Marion’s birth, she was likely born soon after Donald.8 Between 1914 and 1936, John attended George Washington University, Nebraska University, Boston University, and Harvard University for graduate study.9

Career and Ministry

John began his career as head of the science department at Mount Vernon College in Ohio from 1908 to1914. John served as the dean of the science department at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University (1914-1919), associate secretary of the department of education for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (1919-1922), president (1922-1924) and academic dean (1924-1925) of Union College in Nebraska, and vice president for Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andews University) in Michigan (1925-1928).10 He became president of Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts in 1928, expanded the campus as well as the science program, and secured the school’s ability to grant BA degrees during the Great Depression despite the desire of the General Conferences to reduce the school to junior college status.11 He returned to Union College as a teacher of education in 1936.12

Later Life

Professor John never retired. On January 13, 1938 he returned to his home on Calvert Street in Lincoln, Nebraska after teaching his morning classes. When he finished eating lunch, he decided to lie down for a nap. He never awoke: he suffered a heart attack and died at fifty-four years of age.13


Otto Marion John supported the Seventh-day Adventist Church and society by serving the young people of colleges across the United States and preparing them for service in Seventh-day Adventist institutions and workplaces all over the world.


“In Memoriam: Donald L. John ’42.” Alumni Association, School of Medicine of Loma Linda University. August 2, 2017.

John, Otto M. “College Notes.” Columbia Union Visitor, August 16, 1911.

Tolsma, Maarten. “Otto M. John.” My Heritage Library Edition. December 16, 2017.

Hagstotz, Gideon D. “The Journey’s End: Prof. Otto M. John.” ARH, February 10, 1938.

John, Otto M. “Why I Am a Christian.” Signs of the Times, August 22, 1922.

Prescott, Clio. “The School by the Nashua.” Adventist Heritage, April 1, 1994.


  1. Gideon D. Hagstotz, “The Journey’s End: Prof. Otto M. John,” ARH, February 10, 1938, 22.

  2. Otto M. John, “Why I Am a Christian,” Signs of the Times, August 22, 1922, 4–5.

  3. Hagstotz, 22.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Otto M. John, “College Notes,” Columbia Union Visitor, August 16, 1911, 3.

  6. Maarten Tolsma, “Otto M. John,” My Heritage Library Edition, December 16, 2017,

  7. “In Memoriam: Donald L. John ’42,” Alumni Association, School of Medicine of Loma Linda University, August 2, 2017,

  8. Hagstotz, 22.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Ibid.

  11. Clio Prescott, “The School by the Nashua,” Adventist Heritage, April 1, 1994, 7-12.

  12. Hagstotz, 22.

  13. Ibid.


Turk, Katherine, Edward Allen. "John, Otto Marion (1883–1938)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed April 01, 2023.

Turk, Katherine, Edward Allen. "John, Otto Marion (1883–1938)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access April 01, 2023,

Turk, Katherine, Edward Allen (2020, January 29). John, Otto Marion (1883–1938). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 01, 2023,