Longtime Brandywine donor funds scholarship to address student financial need

Headshot photo of a women

Penn State Brandywine Advisory Board member Lynn Marie Johnson has funded a scholarship to support students with financial need.

Credit: Lynn Marie Johnson

MEDIA, Pa. — Longtime Penn State donor and development professional Lynn Marie Johnson has made a $50,000 estate commitment to Penn State Brandywine. The Johnson Family Scholarship at Penn State Brandywine will support Philadelphia or Delaware County residents with financial need.

“We are so grateful to Lynn for this generous gift,” stated Brandywine Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells. “Thanks to Lynn’s experience as a Brandywine student and Advisory Board member, she understands that most obstacles our students face are financial rather than academic. More than half of our Brandywine students meet the criteria for unmet financial need. The Johnson Family Scholarship at Penn State Brandywine will help provide that lift for our students and make a powerful impact in their lives and our world.”

Johnson, a first-generation college graduate, explained that the gift is a tribute to the sacrifices her parents made for her education.

“My father was very generous in his own way, and my mother as well. He never turned away an invitation for a donation to something, however small or large,” Johnson explained. She noted that their generosity to her included her mother’s daily excursions by public transportation with her from Philadelphia to the Brandywine campus as well as time spent in the student lounge while Johnson attended her classes.

Johnson was also the editor of the campus newspaper, The Lion’s Eye, during her time at Brandywine. Though she transferred to Temple University before completing her degree, this was the beginning of her journalism career, culminating at Philadelphia’s CBS station. Johnson had a second career in public affairs, and she also served as the executive director of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP before transitioning to fundraising. She returned to Penn State Brandywine as its director of development and eventually moved on to University Park as the executive director of development for Commonwealth Campuses. For the past 20 years, she has worked in development and now serves as vice president of philanthropy for The HumanGood Foundation.

After an initial term from 2001-2005, she re-joined the Penn State Brandywine Advisory Board in 2020 to make a difference. As a fundraising professional, Johnson has a unique perspective on determining how to make the most meaningful impact through giving; she said as a result of working at Penn State, she knows that the University has longstanding success with fundraising and stewards its philanthropy well. She added that Penn State alumni perpetuate a tradition of involvement as benefactors, parents and volunteer leaders. “In choosing which organizations to support, I look for prominence and a success story for serving others. Penn State has celebrated that long legacy. I also seek opportunities to make a difference. It makes you proud to be able to do that.”

Johnson also noted, “I am impressed with the strategic plan of the institution. Penn State Brandywine is not stagnant. They are serving topical needs that are relevant with potential for long-term impact and the capability for the acquisition of solid talent to support development locally, regionally and abroad.”

Penn State Brandywine’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan — "New Opportunities, New Stories" — focuses on growing its student population by providing financial accessibility and affordability, considering financial support a core component of student success. The other two stated goals of the plan, to foster an equitable environment and increase campus visibility, ensure the whole student is supported as Penn State Brandywine evolves.

“Lynn has supported Penn State Brandywine’s vision for decades,” said Wells. “This is the second scholarship she has established at Penn State Brandywine. We celebrate the memory of Lynn’s brother each time we give a deserving Brandywine student the Brian K. Johnson Memorial Award. We are honored that she is once again working with our campus to honor her family.”

Johnson recently completed the endowment process for the Brian K. Johnson Memorial Award. She established the annual award in 2003 to benefit the student of color with the highest grade-point-average. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are important to me, as an African American woman,” Johnson affirmed. “I’m proud to be able to highlight and amplify such a mission for Penn State.”  

Johnson stated that as her Penn State Brandywine experiences and relationships have formed her as a professional, it is only natural that she would include the campus in her estate plan. “I would encourage others to think about the impact this institution has made on their lives and how this university has been pivotal to their success.”

This visionary estate commitment will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.