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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

An Update on the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity

from The Bridge: Fall 2009 issue

Inagural Class of Johnson ScholarsMeet the inaugural class of Johnson Scholars. Among their ranks are W&L legacies, as well as first generation college students. They include international travelers and prep school students, as well as students who attended public high schools and worked jobs to supplement their families' income. Two of the Johnson Scholars were home-schooled. Two more already own small businesses. The group also includes accomplished athletes, formidable debaters, team captains, an Eagle Scout, a congressional page, a Tae Kwon Do black belt, a child actress, and a nationally ranked Irish dancer.

It's been almost two years since the University announced Rupert Johnson's historic $100 million gift creating the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity at W&L. So far, the results have been excellent, with the promise of more yet to come.

In the fall of 2008, W&L welcomed 41 Johnson Scholars to campus. This year, 38 new Johnson Scholars arrive, and their credentials are impressive. They include 16 valedictorians or salutatorians, with average SAT scores of 1,499 (for reading and math) and average ACT scores of 34. The Johnson Scholars are not only academically gifted, but they also possess a dazzling array of talents and life experiences, as well as the personal qualities and character that W&L has long expected of its students.

The Johnson Scholarship Program has had a tremendous effect on W&L admissions. Since the gift was announced, the number of applicants to W&L has increased from approximately 3,700 to 6,200. Over 70 percent of the Class of 2013 applied for the program. Although $85 million of the $100 million gift is designated for the scholarships, the Johnson Program has several key elements beyond the scholarships. Johnson designated $5 million to create two new professorships.

The first, housed in the Williams School, focuses on entrepreneurship and leadership. The second Johnson professorship, which will be created soon, will be housed in the College and will focus on how individuals and ideas shape the course of history.

Johnson also designated $2 million for select speakers who explore leadership from a variety of perspectives. During the 2008-09 school year, W&L kicked off the Johnson Lecture series, which included such notable speakers as Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner. This year, the lecture series will help bring to campus Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson, among others.

The Johnson gift also contains funds to help rising seniors to pursue internships and projects that develop their leadership potential. During the summer of 2009, W&L awarded eight Johnson Opportunity grants as a pilot initiative. W&L expects to eventually make 25-30 awards each summer. This year the student projects ranged from an art history and chemistry double major working in a textile conservation museum to an economics major working on a microfinance project in Peru.