August 18, 2011
Second-generation alum builds on father's foundation, gifts $6 million to K-State
Like father, like son. The phrase still resonates today as James M. Johnson, Colorado Springs, Colo., has built on the solid foundation laid by his father, the late Gil E. Johnson, building a thriving career in general contracting -- and giving back to the university that set him on the path to success.
Gil Johnson founded the Colorado Springs-based GE Johnson Construction, a general contracting firm, in 1967. As president and CEO, Gil Johnson expanded the company throughout Colorado and into adjoining states, operating with an approach focused on ethics, values and commitment.
A 1955 graduate of Kansas State University, Gil Johnson established an engineering scholarship at the university, the GE Johnson Engineering Scholarship, as well as the GE Johnson Construction Science Chair and the GE Johnson Athletic Department Fund.
Fast-forward 30 years. In 1997, James Johnson took leadership of the company, which now boasts annual sales in excess of $300 million. Following in his father's footsteps, James Johnson and his wife, Laura, have made a gift of $6 million to K-State to establish the James M. and Laura E. Johnson Engineering Faculty Endowment, the James M. and Laura E. Johnson Engineering Scholarship and the James M. and Laura E. Johnson Presidential Scholarship. Their gift also establishes an endowment for facility support for the K-State Alumni Center and provides a $2 million commitment to the basketball training facility.
The faculty endowment has been set up to recruit and retain the highest quality faculty in the College of Engineering at K-State, while the engineering scholarship will provide financial assistance to students who are the first generation in their family to attend college. The presidential scholarship will provide support in recruiting and awarding high-achieving students enrolled in any curriculum at K-State.
James Johnson was born in Wichita, Kan., and grew up in Colorado Springs. He graduated from K-State in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in construction science, and began his career in Texas. Before becoming president of GE Johnson Construction, he served as vice president with primary responsibilities in business development and the formation of the special projects division.
A trustee of the Kansas State University Foundation, James Johnson is also chair of the College of Engineering Advisory Council and a member of the K-State Alumni Association's board of trustees. In 2003, he received the Professional Progress Award from the College of Engineering, and in 2011 he was inducted into the college's Engineering Hall of Fame.
"My dad taught me by example that it's important to support and give back to the institutions that helped shape you and make you who you are. I make an effort to give a lot back to my community and places like K-State -- I take it as a personal and corporate responsibility to do so," James Johnson said.
"James and Laura's gift will be a tremendous factor in recruiting, supporting and rewarding the finest students and outstanding faculty at Kansas State University," said Kirk Schulz, K-State president. "Their gift will help advance the institution towards its goal of becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025."
Philanthropic contributions to K-State are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation. The foundation staff works with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.