To our knowledge, they had little direct involvement in the life of Johnson University and never visited the campus. Most alumni would not recognize their names, and at their request, they will remain unnamed. But the lives of these two sisters will have an impact in God’s kingdom for generations to come. Their faithful giving has helped and will continue to help make it possible for students to come to Johnson to prepare for the preaching ministry.
The sisters’ parents believed in Johnson’s mission and, as generous supporters, were among the very first to be named as Johnson honorary alumni. They led by example and encouraged their daughters in their Christian walk and in their commitment to stewardship. As the sisters established their careers, their faith remained very important to them. They gave of themselves to their church and community, lived simply, and sought no recognition.
The sisters also continued the family legacy of generosity. Together they established preaching scholarship funds at Johnson to honor their parents, and then they gave consistently and generously to those scholarship funds. Through the years, they especially enjoyed reading thank you notes from the scholarship recipients and learning about the students’ plans to serve God. One of the sisters, experiencing failing eyesight in later years, enjoyed hearing the letters read to her.
As these ladies considered how they should direct their resources upon their deaths, not surprisingly, God’s kingdom was a major focus.
In addition to donating portions of their estates to several churches and a Christian care home, they designated a significant percentage to Johnson University for the scholarship funds they had established in memory of their parents. When the gifts from their estates were added to what they had already given, the combined preaching scholarship funds totaled nearly $650,000—Johnson’s largest preaching endowment.
Although the sisters never married or had children of their own, their influence for Christ continues. They probably never fully imagined the eternal impact of their gifts—the number of unnamed students they have helped and will continue to help become preachers and then the countless lives touched for Christ through those preachers’ ministries. We express our deep gratitude for this family’s rich legacy of kingdom commitment, simple living, and generous giving that glorifies God.
About the author: Marie Garrett has served as a librarian at Johnson and Milligan and recently retired from the University of Tennessee. From the mid-70s through most of the 80s, she worked in Johnson’s library alongside Helen Lemmon, Pat Gerkin, Sandra Phillips, Terri Shores, and many other good people. Marie discovered a joy in writing and has contributed several biographical essays to reference books.