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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Feb. 25, 2010

Crash survivor, alumna Mercedes Ramirez Johnson to speak Monday as part of Distinguished Lecture Series

Mercedes Ramirez Johnson

MARYVILLE, Mo. - Northwest will welcome alumna Mercedes Ramirez Johnson to tell her inspirational story about getting a second chance at life.

On the day of her 21st birthday in 1995, Ramirez Johnson narrowly survived the crash of American Airlines Flight 965, which killed 160 people, including her parents. After being stranded for 18 hours on a Colombia mountainside and becoming one of only four survivors of the crash, Ramirez Johnson vowed to make her second chance at life count.

Ramirez Johnson's story has since inspired the tens of thousands of people who have heard her message. She will share her story with the Northwest audience at 8 p.m. Monday, March 1, in the Mary Linn Auditorium of the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts.

"Having Mercedes on campus is such an honor. She is a tremendous inspiration!" said Angel McAdams Prescott, director of campus activities. "Audience members will leave the presentation reminded of what is truly important in life. No one will leave without being touched by her message."

Ramirez Johnson and her story have been the subject of considerable national and international media coverage. She has appeared on ABC's "PrimeTime," The BBC, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Health Channel and as a recurring guest on "The Montel Williams Show." Numerous national magazines and major-market newspapers have published cover stories and special-interest pieces about her.

She also has received national awards for her work, influence and dedication to improving the lives of others. She was recognized as one of the country's top young Hispanic up-and-comers by People Magazine's Spanish edition, People en Español. INROADS, Inc., an international organization dedicated to developing talented minority youth, voted her Alumni of the Year, and she was honored as Volunteer of the Year for Christ Haven for Children, a home for neglected children in Texas.

"Going back to Northwest and sharing my experiences with the students, staff and community is such an honor," Ramirez Johnson said. "Northwest has played a vital role in making me the person that I am today, so it's an exciting opportunity for me to return and hopefully make a difference in the lives of those that will be sharing their time with me on Monday."

In memory of her parents, she established a scholarship for minority students at Northwest, where she actively serves as an executive member of the University's Foundation Board.

Ramirez Johnson is a 1997 graduate of Northwest. She lives in Texas with her husband and their four children.

For more information about Ramirez Johnson and her story go to

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468