H. Fisk Johnson’s ’79, M.Eng ’80, M.S. ’82, MBA ’84, Ph.D ’86 $150-million donation to the College of Business — the largest single gift made to the University — is not the first gift the Johnson family has made to Cornell.
In fact, the connection between the Johnson family and Cornell goes back more than a century.
“Few families have maintained such a strong tradition of Cornell involvement and support over several generations,” said Corey Earle ’07, former lecturer of the course American Studies 2001: The First American University.
The Johnson name is used in several campus establishments, including the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.
“The Johnson family has provided remarkable leadership and support to Cornell over three generations,” Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings told the Cornell Chronicle. “Their friendship, guidance and generosity have helped to shape the university we know today.”
The Johnson museum was established after Herbert F. Johnson Jr. — Fisk Johnson’s grandfather — committed funds for the art museum upon his death in 1978.
In 1984, Fisk Johnson’s father Samuel C. Johnson Jr. made a $20 million endowment gift to the Graduate School of Business and Public Administration. The school was subsequently renamed after Fisk Johnson’s great-great-grandfather, Samuel Curtis Johnson, founder of SC Johnson & Son, Inc.
Not only has the Johnson family left their philanthropic mark on Cornell, but the family also claims a legacy to the University with graduates over several generations, including Fisk Johnson’s grandfather, Herbert F. Johnson Jr. ’22, father Samuel C. Johnson Jr. ’50, mother Imogene Powers Johnson ’52 and siblings Curt Johnson ’77, Helen Johnson-Leipold ’78 and Winifred Johnson Marquart ’81.
According to his Forbes profile, Johnson ranks 146 under Forbes 400, with a net worth of $3.6 billion. As the fifth generation leading SC Johnson & Son, Inc., Johnson was appointed chairman in 2000 and CEO in 2004.
In 2006, on behalf of the company, Johnson was awarded the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership, a presidential honor given to companies for distinguishment in relationships with employees and communities.
In addition to Johnson’s business successes, Johnson has continued to be involved with Cornell like his family members before him.
“Beyond their generous gifts, [the Johnsons] have also served in a broad range of roles as alumni leaders and advisors, and I think their service has been an inspiration to many Cornellians,” Earle said.
Both Johnson’s grandfather, Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., and his father, Samuel C. Johnson Jr., served as presidential councillors — the highest honor given to alumni. His mother, Emogene Powers Johnson, currently holds this position.
Fisk Johnson serves as Trustee Emeritus on the Board of Trustees after being a member for eight years. In the past Johnson has also served in the Engineering College Alumni Council and as honorary chair in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School Advisory Council.