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Roger '56 and Janice Johnson

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It Takes Courage to Plan
Spring 2003

"I just didn't know where to begin."

That statement was quite a surprise, coming from Roger Johnson ’56. Roger W. Johnson is one of a very small group whose career includes leadership positions in   four institutional segments, i.e., CEO of a Fortune 500 company, head of a major Federal Agency as well as significant leadership roles in non-profit art organizations and two major universities. But as a high school student in 1952, the first in his family to go to college, the process of finding a school was daunting. "We didn’t know where to begin. It was through the help and guidance of Coach Hodge and others at Clarkson that I believed it could be possible. My Clarkson years were some of the best of my life, both on the baseball field and in the classroom," said Roger. The nurturing social and academic atmosphere, along with the personal attention from faculty and coaches like Hank Hodge were critical to Roger's development and propelled him to graduate first in his class. It also allowed him to meet his love and lifelong partner, Janice (Potsdam ’56).

"We knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish."

This sounded much more like Roger, as he spoke of his and Janice’s plans for charity: "We were determined to support both Potsdam State and Clarkson. We created a family trust to help manage our assets, and we included bequests to both Potsdam and Clarkson. Our gift to Potsdam will create an endowment to bring world-class artists to Potsdam to provide master classes and performances for the entire Potsdam community. Our bequest to Clarkson will create an endowment to provide scholarship support to students in the School of Business. Scholarships made it possible for me to attend Clarkson, and now I can help future generations benefit from the same Clarkson experience that I had." Roger contacted Clarkson to create guidelines for how the scholarship will be managed when the gift ultimately goes to the University. "The University staff was very helpful in documenting my desires. I feel confident that my gift will someday help those most in need of financial assistance. An added bonus is that our gift will benefit the local economy by keeping assets in the North Country."

"Find the courage to take the first step."

"Everything worthwhile takes courage," said Roger. "It took courage for all of us to go away to college, to manage careers and families, to make a difference in the world. Now it takes courage for us all to begin or update our estate plans and determine what we can do to make a difference for the future of the world through a place like Clarkson. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment."

Footnote: Roger Johnson passed away in 2005. This article is published in thanks and admiration to a loyal Clarkson alumnus.