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Honoring Donation: Juniata Presents Plaque to Somerset Area High School

(Posted September 29, 2008)

Larry Johnson, Class of 1961

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Larry S. Johnson, a native of Somerset, Pa. who never forgot how his education at Juniata College was able to lift him from a hardscrabble childhood in central Pennsylvania to become a doctor, has left a $6.1 million bequest that provides a full tuition, room-and-board scholarship to one Somerset Area High School student each year and provide endowed scholarships for Juniata students.

Juniata College President Thomas R. Kepple accompanied by David Andrews, chair of the Juniata board of trustees and an Altoona, Pa.-based attorney, will honor Johnson's memory by presenting a memorial plaque to Mark Gross, principal of Somerset Area High School, at 9 a.m., Monday, Sept. 29, at the administrative offices of Somerset Area High School.

"Larry Johnson always treasured the education he received at Juniata College and we are forever grateful that he has left a legacy to Somerset Area High School that ensures that other students like Larry will get the chance to receive a top-flight education," Kepple says.

The bequest from Johnson's will is the largest single estate gift ever received by Juniata College. Johnson died in July 20, 2007.

"When someone does something of this magnitude, that will help so many students, we want to understand why, what moved them, so that we can honor them as best we can," Kepple says. "I think it's a pretty natural instinct. You want to say thank you in a way that means something to the individual, in a way that honors what they have done."

Johnson, the son of William and Mary Ellen Johnson, grew up in Somerset. He graduated from Juniata College in 1961. His father died early in his childhood. Mary Ellen Johnson returned to school to become a registered nurse, working at Somerset Community Hospital.

He was a 1957 graduate of Somerset Area High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, the Science Club, Chess Club, Boys Chorus, Student Council and the Key Club. He was class president for three years and received the Chemistry Award, the Sociology Award and the Danforth Foundation Award.

Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in science. He received a Scholarship of $750 to the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and also received a $1,000 scholarship from the Vivian B. Allen Foundation.

Johnson credited his medical school scholarships with enabling him to become a doctor and contributed during his life to many Juniata projects, including the William J. von Liebig Center for Science, the Kenneth W. Crosby Scholarship and the college's annual fund.

The specific parameters of Johnson's gift are:

--Johnson designated $1.5 million to endow the Lawrence S. Johnson '61 Scholarship, which gives a full tuition, room-and-board scholarship to a graduate of Somerset Area High School who "demonstrates financial need, academic proficiency in the natural sciences and leadership potential."

--He further designated a $1.5 million gift to the University of Rochester (N.Y.) School of Medicine and Dentistry, to endow a four-year, full tuition scholarship for a graduate of Juniata College "who have been accepted for admission to the Medical School and who demonstrate financial need."

--The remainder of Johnson's estate, which amounted to $2,761,106, will be distributed, according to Johnson's wishes, to the Homer C. and Ethel F. Will Endowed Freshman Biology Scholarship, which will be distributed as part of financial aid packages for science students at Juniata.

--Johnson also left personal property to the general operating fund at the college, a gift that totals about $400,000.

Johnson's medical career started in Lexington, Ky. at University Hospital, where he was a medical intern and later a resident. His dedication to service took him to the western United States as a doctor for the Indian Health Division of the Public Health Service in Arizona. He specialized in diagnostic radiology (reading X-rays) and started his career in Monterey, Calif. at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. He also worked at hospitals in Las Vegas, Nev., at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, N.M. and at Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta, Colo.


Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.