CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new initiative to raise support for Oregon State University students has received a boost from alumnus Peter Johnson and his wife, Rosalie, who donated $2.4 million to endow a unique scholarship-internship program they started at OSU 10 years ago, ensuring the program will continue for generations to come.
This year, OSU leaders launched a scholarship initiative aimed at raising $100 million for students as part of The Campaign for OSU, the university's first-ever comprehensive fundraising effort. The Johnsons hope their gift will inspire others to support students.
“It’s a wonderful way to give back,” said Peter Johnson, a 1955 OSU chemical engineering graduate. “My education at Oregon State has served me very well in my life, and Rosalie and I want to help future OSU students have the opportunities we had by supporting them through scholarships.”
The Corvallis couple first started the Peter and Rosalie Johnson Scholarship Fund in 1998, and over the years committed more than $700,000 to benefit more than 100 students in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering. Their recent gift will endow the fund, providing support for 16 students annually.
Each year, six incoming students are named Johnson Scholars, receiving $11,000 in scholarship support, including $4,000 in the form of a paid summer internship at an Oregon company or university research lab. Ten additional students are named Johnson Interns each year and receive funding to undertake summer internships.
Senior Staci Van Norman, a current Johnson Scholar from Glendale, Ore., said the support has been invaluable. “Being a Johnson Scholar has been a great opportunity for me,” she said. “The combination of scholarship support, internships and mentoring has helped solidify everything I’ve learned here at Oregon State. It’s made me want to keep learning and help the world.”
Van Norman, who plans to attend graduate school to study renewable energy, has spent three summers on internships working with chemical engineering professor Skip Rochefort at the OSU Polymer Research Lab. Her research into methods of more quickly repairing damaged natural gas pipelines using an adhesive patch recently resulted in a patent, on which her name will appear.
Rochefort said it’s almost unheard of for undergraduates to have their names on patents. “Staci and the other Johnson Scholars and Interns are not your ordinary students,” he said. “They are able to achieve so much at OSU and after graduation thanks to Pete and Rosalie’s deep, personal commitment to helping students succeed.”
Engineering Dean Ron Adams said the Johnsons have provided a tremendous example of the difference donors can make for students.
“The Johnsons have already helped so many students get an exceptional engineering education, gain valuable real-world problem solving experience through internships, earn their degree and go on to great careers in Oregon and around the world,” said Adams. “That’s an incredible impact. Now, with this endowment, Pete and Rosalie will help untold numbers of future students at Oregon State."
Peter Johnson said that blending hands-on internships with classroom learning can help students jump-start their careers.
“An internship was an opportunity I had as a student that made a significant difference in my life,” said Johnson. “I worked one summer at Shell Oil and was offered a job at the company when I graduated.”
Johnson spent six years at Shell before joining label-maker company DYMO in California. In 1980, he founded Tekmax, Inc., a Tangent, Ore.-based company that manufactures battery plate enveloping and automated transfer equipment. Tekmax was acquired in 2004 by a company affiliated with Warren Buffett.
Previous Johnson Scholars have gone on to graduate school at prestigious universities or are pursuing careers in industry. For example, Jeff Euhus, who has stayed in touch with the Johnsons, graduated a year ago and was immediately hired by Chevron.
"The most rewarding and exciting part of this is that we've had the chance to meet the young men and women who receive the scholarships and share in their success,” said Rosalie Johnson.
The Campaign for OSU seeks $625 million to provide opportunities for students, strengthen the Oregon economy and conduct research that changes the world. Recently the campaign surpassed the $450 million mark including nearly $72 million toward a $100 million goal for scholarships and fellowship support.