William D. Johnston, B.S. ’70, M.A. ’74, is president, CEO and chairman of the Greenleaf Companies, headquartered in Kalamazoo. The firm includes Greenleaf Trust, Greenleaf Hospitality Group and Catalyst Development, L.L.C. which collectively employ more than 900 people.
Johnston majored in political science as an undergraduate and played football for three years. Upon graduation, he accepted a teaching and coaching position at Kalamazoo Central High School and began a 14-year career in public education while also earning a master’s degree. He served as assistant principal at Kalamazoo’s South Junior High School. From 1978-1985, he was athletic director, assistant principal and principal at Mattawan High School in Mattawan.
In 1985, Johnston left education and pursued his passion for investments by joining a national brokerage firm. He rose to vice president of the firm in just six years, but decided to leave and establish Greenleaf Asset Management Inc.—the first of the three Greenleaf Companies. After succeeding in his quest for a bank charter from the state of Michigan, he founded Greenleaf Trust in 1998 and merged the asset management company and bank together one year later. Greenleaf Trust manages in excess of $7 billion and has offices in the Michigan cities of Birmingham, Traverse City, Petoskey, Holland and Kalamazoo.
The Greenleaf Hospitality Group was formed in 2000 with the purchase of the Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites property in downtown Kalamazoo. The group now includes the Holiday Inn West, Stadium Management Group, Wings Stadium and the K-Wings professional hockey team. Catalyst Development Company, L.L.C is the real estate development and management arm of the Greenleaf Companies and has approximately 1.5 million square feet of property under management.
As the chairman of Southwest Michigan First, Economic Development Corp., Johnston is a passionate supporter of the Kalamazoo region. A member of WMU Board of Trustees, he also serves on the boards for the Bronson Healthcare Group, Donald and Genevieve Gilmore Foundation, Special-Lite and Softech Corp., and WMU Foundation.
Johnston resides with his wife, Ronda E. Stryker, who earned her master’s from WMU in 1982, in the Kalamazoo area. They have three adult children.