McMurry Announces $10 Million Campaign to Endow School of Business

  Gary Ellison
  Friday, June 24, 2016 2:12 PM
  Archives 2014 - 2015

Abilene, TX

McMurry University announced today a $10,000,000 campaign to endow its school of business.  The University has already reached ninety percent of the goal.

At the successful completion of the campaign the school will be named for longtime Abilene bank executive Walter F. Johnson and his wife Virginia Johnson, whose selfless contributions to McMurry, First Financial Bank, the United Methodist Church, and the Abilene community exemplify stellar servant leadership.  Johnson served as bank president from 1954 to 1973 and then formed the holding company First Financial Bancshares where he served as president and chairman until 1986.  In 1970, Johnson became a member of the McMurry Board of Trustees where he faithfully served for 16 years.

“It will be an honor to McMurry and the entire Abilene community for this school to carry the name of Walter and Virginia Johnson.  For those folks who knew, worked with, and were positively impacted by the Johnsons, a gift to this campaign is a wonderful way to honor their legacy,” said Debra Hulse, McMurry University Vice President for Institutional Advancement.

“The focus of the campaign is to prepare future business leaders who are equipped with a depth of knowledge and experience to enter our increasingly complex world,” said McMurry University president Dr. Sandra Harper “The endowment will allow McMurry to continue its tradition of educating future business leaders with a liberal arts emphasis combined with strong financial insight.”

The $10 million endowment will fund student scholarships, faculty positions and programs to enhance student professional success. A significant portion of the funds will be dedicated for faculty support and will provide McMurry the opportunity to recruit and retain student-centered faculty who are outstanding scholars and experienced practitioners.. Gifts to support students will provide scholarships to attract exceptional students to the business program who will heighten the competitive student environment.

“McMurry’s innovative approach to our new School of Business leverages the best of both traditional business and liberal arts curricula, creating a unique learning opportunity for students and positions them for distinctive success after graduation,” said McMurry Board Chair Austin Pittman, a 1991 McMurry graduate and the CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community and State, a $29 billion division of UnitedHealth Group. “It will fund the recruitment of students who will increase the University’s academic reputation, create greater opportunities for student experiential learning and provide a higher degree of partnerships between the University, local, state and national businesses and major industries.”

“I want to extend my sincere thanks to all the donors who have made this possible. We want to especially recognize our lead donors: the Dian Graves Owen Foundation and the Dodge-Jones Foundation for their help in providing a significant challenge gift to spark interest in securing the full $10,000,000, and McMurry University board member and longtime friend of the Johnsons, Sara Hudman Graham, and her husband Paul, who have contributed $1 million toward the campaign. Also, I am pleased to announce that we have received participation from 100% of the McMurry Board of Trustees in funding this important initiative.” said Pittman.

Chris Johnson, son of Walter and Virginia Johnson, commented on the honor of naming the School of Business for his parents.

“My father was committed to McMurry and to Abilene and he loved and believed deeply in both. His core Methodist values showed in the integrity with which he approached everything from business to community service to his personal life. His no-nonsense business acumen and leadership were instrumental in setting First Financial Bank on a course to flourish when the vast majority of local banks did not survive and made a small town banker into a bit of a legend in Texas banking. Both my parents were tireless in their leadership and service to Abilene and McMurry University, and though they were never ones to seek recognition, I am certain that this honor would touch them deeply. I believe that the McMurry Board of Trustees has chosen well to associate its School of Business with their legacy.”

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Gary Ellison