Elon alumnus and family create legacy with major gift to Inn at Elon and scholarships

A generous gift from Richard ’87 P’17 and Laurie Johnson P’17 focus on two priorities of the Elon LEADS Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history.  

When Richard ’87 P’17 and Laurie P’17 Johnson think about higher education, their personal college experiences—and those of their daughter Grace ’17—stand out. They want to make sure those same experiences are available to future Elon students with a major gift toward construction of The Inn at Elon and creation of the Richard S. and Laurie L. Johnson Elon Engagement Scholarship.

Laurie and Richard Johnson.
The Inn at Elon, now under being built adjacent to the Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center, is an 80-room hotel featuring a restaurant, bar, event spaces and a fitness room that will be an endowment-owned asset of the university, with net operating revenues going toward financial aid and scholarships. The gift will also establish an Elon Engagement Scholarship in Richard and Laurie Johnson’s name.

The Johnsons, of Potomac Falls, Virginia, are longtime supporters of Elon, serving as members of Parents Council when their daughter was a student. Richard Johnson is a member of the Elon Alumni Board. They have previously supported scholarships, the School of Communications, the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, Schar Center and the Phoenix Club.

“Being in finance, backing the idea of having profits from The Inn go into the endowment to fund scholarships for students who need them is a win all the way around,” says Johnson, who is senior vice president and chief consumer lending officer for MainStreet Bank in Virginia. “I think education is our most important resource.”

Laurie Johnson was a first-generation college student who graduated from American University, earned a master’s degree at George Washington University and is now a managing director at Accenture. She calls education “a great leveler” and points out the significance of scholarships in building a more diverse and interesting campus. “Higher education benefits not only the person who is receiving it, but it also benefits the community from which that person came.”

“I think education is learning about cultures in a campus environment and then experiencing that culture as part of a global community,” Richard adds.

Engagement Scholarships were created for this purpose. Students selected to receive Engagement Scholarships embody the spirit and values of the university. They are engaged learners who strive to achieve at high levels while interacting with the world as participators, not spectators. Elon Engagement Scholars are awarded a scholarship annually and a one-time grant to be used for an engaged learning opportunity such as undergraduate research, study abroad, Study USA, internships, service learning or leadership.

Laurie and Richard agree that Elon’s engagement experiences, especially global studies, had a profound impact on their daughter. “How those experiences changed her impressed us," Laurie says. "She came back a different person.”

“The Johnson family is creating a rich legacy at Elon with this foundational gift to not only the innovative Inn at Elon but also scholarship support for students who might not otherwise have the resources to attend Elon,” says Jim Piatt, vice president for University Advancement. “We are grateful to Richard and Laurie Johnson for this inspirational gift.”

Making these experiences available to students who might not otherwise be able to attend Elon was the reason the Johnsons want first preference for the Richard S. and Laurie L. Johnson Elon Engagement Scholarship to go to an Elon legacy student from Virginia, with second preference to a student-athlete from Virginia. The Johnsons also believe that helping Elon athletes is vital to the diversity of the university. Student-athletes bring a different and important experience to the Elon community.

“I think it’s important to offer global knowledge, global experiences to Elon students. I had a great experience at Elon. Our daughter graduated in 2017 and she had an even greater experience at Elon,” Richard says. “Elon was a good way to get out on my own and learn. And it’s great to come back 30 years later and have your daughter want to go where you went to school. I hope other alumni can experience that.”

About The Elon LEADS Campaign

The Johnsons’ gift is counted as part of The Elon LEADS Campaign, which the university launched on Friday, April 5. With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four key priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, access to engaged learning opportunities, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and our iconic campus.

Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, and estate and other planned gifts—counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.elonleads.com.