New $2 Million Endowed Scholarship Honors Johnson

By Kimber Williams

As the Emory Board of Trustees convened for its annual meeting in November, retiring Board Chair Ben F. Johnson III knew the gathering would bring a formal transition of power, as new Board Chair John Morgan was elected to the top leadership position.

For the most part, the plan went as expected, with Johnson stepping into an emeritus trustee role after serving on the board since 1995, the last thirteen years as its chair.

What Johnson didn’t anticipate: An announcement of the creation of a $2 million endowed scholarship in his name in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

In support of both Johnson’s service to the university and the Emory Scholarship Endowment Initiative—which emphasizes scholarship endowment as a priority—the Board of Trustees revealed the new scholarship during a special tribute dinner in his honor.

Given Johnson’s intellectual curiosity, commitment to scholarship and his deep roots at Emory—his father, Ben F. Johnson Jr., was dean of Emory Law from 1961 to 1973 and Johnson himself is a 1965 graduate of Emory College—an endowed scholarship was especially fitting, says Susan Cruse, senior vice president of development and alumni relations.

And the timing couldn’t be more appropriate, she adds.

Last fall, President James Wagner released a video message announcing that in order to ensure that Emory’s doors are open to all exceptional students, the university has begun an initiative to increase endowment funding for scholarships in every school.

“The Ben Johnson Scholarship Endowment is definitely part of the trustees’ commitment to scholarship endowment, which the university has designated as a top priority,” Cruse notes.

Support for the scholarship endowment “was initiated by the Emory Development and Communications subcommittee of the Board of Trustees,” she adds, a recommendation “that was embraced wholeheartedly by the full board.”

The announcement came as the culmination of an evening of warm reflection upon Johnson’s service and dedication, which included the presentation of a handcrafted set of bookends carved from Etowah Fleuri marble (also known as “Georgia Pink”) derived from a fountain that faced Asbury Circle in the 1950s and carved with a scroll motif reflecting various elements of campus architecture.

Throughout the evening, Johnson was presented with a series of books “representing the breadth of the Emory community” to symbolically fill the marble bookends, said Rosemary Magee, former vice president and secretary of the university and director of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. In the end, it was a collection that embodied the spirit, depth, and full reach of the liberal arts: books of poetry and music; law and public policy; nursing, public health, and medicine; theology; regional literature; and history.

Following the book presentations, trustees Sonny Deriso and Diane Savage announced that Johnson’s new scholarship would be initiated as a $2 million endowment by the Board of Trustees, “as a perpetual reminder of the wisdom, insight, and integrity with which you have led this board and inspired Emory to strive for excellence in everything we do.”

Since the announcement, additional gifts and pledges to the endowment have been received, bringing the total to more than $2,140,000 including matching funds, Cruse says.

To learn more about the Emory Scholarship Endowment Initiative, or to contribute to the Ben Johnson Scholarship Endowment, contact Cruse at scruse2@emory.edu.

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