Perseverance pays off

Marshall High grads set up U of M scholarship endowment for students with disabilities Harvey Johnson is a man of […]

Marshall High grads set up U of M scholarship endowment for students with disabilities

Harvey Johnson is a man of many virtues, the least of which is perseverance. It is because of the perseverance of Johnson and his fellow Marshall High graduates that a scholarship program for students with disabilities has been recently endowed at the University of Minnesota-after almost 20 years of hard work. The Marshall Access and Education Fund is expected to award its first scholarships to U of M students this fall.

Johnson was in the fifth grade at Minneapolis’ Tuttle Elementary School when he suffered his first seizure. He remembers that he was playing ball with his friend Bill Anderson when the seizure struck.

As a result of his disability, Johnson was not able to participate in athletics or extra curricular activities when he attended Marshall High. Nevertheless the 1939 Marshall graduate has many fond memories of his years at the Dinky-town school. In its day, Marshall High was a school that serviced a large percentage of metro students with disabilities. The school has since been closed and the building is now an office building.

In 1959, Johnson chaired the Class of 1939’s reunion committee and he has chaired the committee every five years since. In 1989, Johnson and his classmates celebrated their 50th anniversary.

The event was a big success. More than 100 people turned out. When the dust settled the reunion committee met and discovered that they had nearly $300 left over. They discussed what to do with the money. Johnson suggested that they start a scholarship fund for students with disabilities. The committee agreed and the Marshall Alumni Endowment Fund (MAEF) was born.

Led by Johnson, the alumni solicited funds through the mail and by word of mouth. Over the next 10 years, the fund grew to nearly $9,000.

Ruth Stone Stewart, a member of the 1989 reunion committee, was instrumental in bringing together MAEF and the U of M Office of Disability Service in January 2003. Johnson, Stone Stewart and the committee turned over the MAEF money to the U. MAEF was renamed the Marshall Access and Education Fund.

Since 2003 the fund has grown more rapidly. In May 2007, the fund reached $22,000, just $3,000 shy of the $25,000 mark at which it will become an endowed scholarship fund. At that point scholarships may be awarded from the interest generated by investing the money in the fund.

Great news arrived in June 2007 when MAEF reached $25,000. In addition, the U of M Foundation matches MAEF’s $25,000, bringing the fund’s total to $50,000.

At age 88, Johnson is an extraordinary person, with a keen mind and sharp wit. He is very happy to see the efforts of the Marshall alumni come to fruition. His concern for students with disabilities and his perseverance will provide benefits for many years to come.

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