Retired Executive Donates $36 Million for Scholarships

By Millicent Lawton — October 23, 1991 1 min read

When Theodore R. Johnson, a Florida retiree, says that an education is “the most important thing a child can have in life,” he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. All $36 million of it.

The 90-year-old Mr. Johnson has set aside that much of his estimated $70-million personal fortune to establish the Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson Foundation, which will supply college-scholarship money to Florida high-school graduates, American Indians, and the disabled.

Interest accumulated on the money, administered by U.S. Trust Corporation in New York, will go to six institutions or funds on a percentage basis, Mr. Johnson said last week.

The biggest beneficiary--to receive 40 percent of the interest--is Palm Beach Atlantic College, a small Baptist liberal-arts college in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Children of United Parcel Service’s Florida employees--U.P.S. is Mr. Johnson’s former employer--will use a 20 percent share of the money for need-based scholarships.

Four other beneficiaries each will receive 10 percent of the interest:

  • The American Indian College Fund, which will provide scholarships to 26 tribal colleges.
  • Gallaudet University, a private liberal-arts college for the hearing-impaired located in Washington.
  • The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine.
  • A scholarship fund for disabled Florida children to attend colleges in that state.

Mr. Johnson said he hoped to help middle-income families who have found it difficult to pay for college.

The first scholarship monies will go out next fall, Mr. Johnson said, and eventually about 500 to 1,000 students a year could each receive between $500 and $5,000 in aid.

Mr. Johnson said he chose Palm Beach Atlantic College as a recipient because of its requirements for community service and course work on the “free-enterprise system,” while his own impaired heating and concern that the American Indians “have not received their fair treatment” prompted the other contributions.

Mr. Johnson, a widower who has set up trust funds for his son and two grandchildren, said he never made more than $14,000 a year as a vice president at U.P.S., from which he retired in 1952. He said he made his fortune through annual investment in company stock.

A version of this article appeared in the October 23, 1991 edition of Education Week as Retired Executive Donates $36 Million for Scholarships