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For Columbus residents Rick and Alice Johnson, helping local schools, colleges and universities means helping local businesses with greater access to qualified employees.
It also means helping people reach their true potential, contribute to society and take better care of their families.
The couple were recognized Friday by Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin as Benefactors of the Year. The award honors individuals, corporations or foundations that have changed the lives of Ivy Tech students and their communities by providing exceptional philanthropic and volunteer leadership.
“If you look at how you can really support communities long term, education … is a critical element,” Rick Johnson said. “It’s a way people get in position to effectively participate in today’s society.”
And, Alice Johnson said, helping people gain an education or improve their skills also helps local economies, because local businesses have a better educated and trained workforce.
Rick Johnson served on the board of the college’s fundraising campaign, and the couple, both graduates of Indiana
University, contributed to Ivy Tech’s campaign for a Book Bridge Scholarship this year.
Rick Johnson also has supported the Community Education Coalition, IU and serves on the IUPUC board. Alice Johnson, a Columbus native and graduate of Columbus North High School, began her volunteer work at Southside Elementary School when the couple’s children were young and since has contributed through activities including serving on the boards of kidscommons children’s museum and the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation.
Rick Johnson said the diversity of the couple’s contributions reflect the philosophy that people learn in different ways, and that everyone can learn and contribute.
“There isn’t one path that works for everybody,” he said.
Both said that their parents inspired them to get involved in education.
Rick Johnson’s mother, Ruth, and his father, the late Dick Johnson, have contributed to many educational endeavors, including Ivy Tech and Indiana University, which named its Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation after Dick Johnson.
Alice Johnson’s parents, too, have a history of supporting educational institutions. Last year, her father, Ken DeLap, established a scholarship in the name of his late wife, Phyllis.
Many people in the community have worked very hard to establish the local educational institutions, Rick Johnson said, and leaders of today must continue the work of the people who came before.
“We’re just happy to play a small role,” he said.
“We’re honored,” his wife said.
Therese Copeland, Ivy Tech’s executive director of resource development, said via email that the support from residents and businesses significantly affects Ivy Tech students.
“The selflessness of our donors helps people improve their lives by starting new careers, advancing in their current professions, or moving on to continue their education,” Copeland said. “By helping our students, these benefactors are helping the economic well-being of our region and are changing lives for generations to come.”
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