In the quiet hours of the morning, you may see a gentleman in a USS Ticonderoga hat walking through campus passing out printed jokes or pairs of handmade paper fake teeth that he keeps in his wallet.
John Lemburg audits Lynn Winstead’s class, Communications in America. Lemburg comes into her class early every morning and sits in the front row to interact with the students.
“He’s not getting a grade, but the students have all just enjoyed communicating with him, but wanted to just audit, specifically, a modern … communications class,” Winstead said. “He is adding to our class.”
Lemburg has been involved in communications his whole life and Winstead said she loves that he has circled back around, not for a grade or for another degree, but just to stay plugged in.
“Before the Navy, I was a radio announcer and assistant engineer at KCPA-FM so I was fascinated by communications all my life and as a radioman (with the Navy), I got to work the circuits,” Lemburg said. “Had some wonderful experiences and that was a long time ago.”
During the pre-Vietnam War era, Lemburg sent Morse code and was present during the Gulf of Tonkin incident. He was a radio supervisor and witnessed Patrol Torpedo boats attack two escort ships, the Turner Joy and the USS Maddox, on Aug. 4 and Aug. 6 of 1964.
While a radioman on the USS Ticonderoga, Lemburg said he had the privilege to stand and talk with one of the most famous comedians of all time, Bob Hope.
“I saw what he did to the morale of the crew of the ship … He had a love in his heart for those people, those sailors,” he said.
Lemburg said all of Hope’s humor was clean and none of it was offensive. Hope influenced the way Lemburg interacts with the stressed college students he comes across every morning as he walks through campus.
Every day, Lemburg hands out 40 to 50 printed jokes to students from the thousand pages of jokes he’s been collecting. He edits them so there is only clean humor present. He’s been handing out “the funnies” for over a decade.
The student response he has received over the years motivated him to keep doing his best to care for people, especially strangers, he said.
“In handing out ‘the funnies,’ the jokes, friendships developed with people and over a period of many, many months or a few years they know I don’t have any ulterior motives,” Lemburg said. “Sometimes, they will unload their difficulties and then I will invite them to pray with me and I’ll write two or three sentences or whatever they would recommend for the prayer intention and then so each day I pray for that person.”
He also goes to several health care facilities to do standup comedy for the residents there.
“One of the things that I learned out of it is that if you take the stress that people have and give them something that they can get rid of it, everything changes,” he said. “Their whole ability to get through the day is changed and that’s something that touches me … and that’s one of the reasons that drives me to do what I do because I care about all the people. They’re important to me and friendships are wonderful and they are very, very important.”