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A 'Bethel Tradition'

Scholarship donors Ed '48 and Joanne Johnson leave a legacy for music students in honor of their shared love for music at Bethel.

By Aiyanna Klaphake '20

December 02, 2019 | 10 a.m.

The Ed and Joanne Johnson Scholarship supports Bethel music students in honor of the couple's shared love for music.

The Ed and Joanne Johnson Scholarship supports Bethel music students in honor of the couple's shared love for music.

For the Johnson family, connections to Bethel go back generations. 

"Bethel was the only school I thought about going to because it was a sort of tradition in my family," says Julie Peterson '87, daughter of Ed '48 and Joanne Johnson. 

Peterson's claim isn't an exaggeration; her brother Mark attended Bethel, as did numerous cousins and Peterson's own two children. However, the 'Bethel tradition' began decades earlier when Ed's mother, Esther, attended the school, motivating Ed to pursue a degree from Bethel College in the late 1940s. "Bethel's always been in his blood and was in my mom's blood too," Peterson muses. 

Even after graduation and throughout his 30-year career at Procter & Gamble, Ed was actively involved in the Baptist General Conference (now Converge), through which he remained a staunch supporter of what would eventually become Bethel University. Upon his early retirement, Ed seized an opportunity to join Bethel's Office of Development. In 1986, he and Joanne moved from Ohio to Minnesota. Once established in the Twin Cities, Ed worked with Bethel's Planned Giving program while Joanne engaged with various Bethel committees. 

Over the next decade, the Johnsons' connections to Bethel only grew stronger, with a special emphasis placed on the music department.

"Bethel was the only school I thought about going to because it was a sort of tradition in my family."

— Julie Peterson '87

Music was always an important aspect of the Johnson family. Before meeting Ed, Joanne worked as a K-12 music teacher, and she later served as the organist and choir director at Calvary Church in Roseville. Both she and Ed participated in church music programs and regularly attended local symphony performances. "Music was something they shared and loved together," Peterson says. "It had always been a big part of their life, and the music program at Bethel is great. They attended pretty much every music event at Bethel."

The highlight of these events was the annual Festival of Christmas. 

"Festival of Christmas became a huge deal," Peterson laughs, remembering having participated in the much-anticipated holiday performances herself during her Bethel choir days. "They always made a point of going, usually twice."

Upon both Ed and Joanne's passing, the family sought to honor the couple's shared passion for music through a scholarship supporting Bethel music students with financial need. A scholarship had been created years before, but it lacked the necessary funding. A solution presented itself in the form of the Johnsons' Charitable Gift Annuity.

During their lifetimes, Ed and Joanne participated in Bethel's Charitable Gift Annuity program, a unique method of giving to Bethel that supports both the university and provides the donor with an additional monthly income. After Ed and Joanne’s deaths, the remaining gift annuity was released to the scholarship fund.

"Bethel and the family used the proceeds of the gift annuity to repurpose the scholarship to something both Ed & Joanne loved," explains Vice President of Planned Giving Dan Wiersum, who worked with Ed during his time with Bethel's Office of Development and assisted the family with utilizing the funds the Johnsons left behind.

To a family so closely tied to Bethel for years past, it seems only fitting that the Johnsons' legacy should impact generations yet to come through a scholarship providing for future music students.

"Mom had always said she wanted to do an academic scholarship," Peterson says, "and music touched so many in my dad's life." With that, the scholarship Joanne long hoped to create became reality.

Make an impact.

Wondering how you can give? Charitable Giving Annuities provide a practical way to do just that. Even while you receive regular annuity payments for life, your gift will go toward promoting Bethel’s mission to serve future leaders with a Christ-centered education.

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