USC Upstate News

Honoring Their Parents’ Legacy In Landrum: Family Of Carolina Alums Endow Scholarship Benefiting Every Campus

06- 01- 2009

Martha Johnson Walker of Landrum, a former Landrum High School valedictorian and teacher, has created an endowed scholarship with her two brothers, Thomas Johnson Jr. and Bo Johnson, all University of South Carolina graduates. The endowment honors their parents, Mary and Tommy Johnson.

The Mary and Tommy Johnson Scholarship, continuing to grow each year in number of recipients, has benefited a Landrum High School senior since 2004. The endowment supports students at any Carolina campus, providing $2,000 over four years.

Walker and WeddeThe newest and fourth scholarship recipient, Landrum High senior Sierra Wedde, plans to attend the University of South Carolina Upstate in the fall. She received the award during Landrum High School Senior Awards Day held May 15, and plans to major in secondary education and biology while commuting from home. Wedde and another recipient attend the Upstate campus, while two others are located in Columbia.

“I am very appreciative of the Mary and Tommy Johnson Scholarship and will be using it to pay my expenses at the Upstate campus,” Wedde said.

Some Family History Behind the Scholarship

Mary Johnson, like her daughter, was also a valedictorian. She was at the top of her senior class at nearby Campobello High School. Martha Walker followed her mother’s successful path to become the Landrum High valedictorian in 1963. She majored in secondary education at Carolina and was University valedictorian during the summer session graduation of 1966.

Though college was out of reach for the parents, Mary and Tommy Johnson worked hard to build a successful business, Landrum Insurance and Real Estate Agency. They dedicated their success toward ensuring that Walker and her two brothers would attend college at the University of South Carolina—and even helped some classmates, unannounced to them.

“Thomas, Bo and I want to help students from Landrum High School, not only to honor our parents, but also to honor the teachers there who provided us with a good foundation for college,” said Walker, a retired Landrum High math teacher. “We want to support the University of South Carolina because it enhanced our lives and future careers.”

Brothers’ Educations at Carolina Produce Success

Walker’s older brother, Thomas Johnson Jr., and younger brother, Bo Johnson, both earned business management degrees from Carolina, in 1962 and 1969, respectively. Thomas Johnson was president and CEO of the Bank Administration Institute in Chicago. He serves on the Board of Advisors for Carolina’s Moore School of Business, as well as the S1 Corporation and Nationwide Bank.

Bo Johnson was a senior vice president for First Union/Wachovia in Charlotte until his retirement. He serves on the Board of Directors of Residential and Support Services, a North Carolina organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and their families.

“Creating this scholarship to honor our parents, Mary and Tommy Johnson, was an answer to a deep need that Bo, Martha, and I had to publicly acknowledge the respect and admiration we have for them,” Thomas Johnson, Jr. said.

“Our parents knew the value of an education and were determined that the three of us would have that treasure,” Bo Johnson said. “When it came to education they helped us, and, though we never knew it, they helped our friends and strangers.”

Landrum High Teaching Career Assists Future Leaders

Johnson ScholarshipDuring most of her 30-year career in teaching, Martha Walker challenged students to reach their leadership potential as the school’s Beta Club adviser and helped coordinate the 75th anniversary of the Landrum Beta Club this year. Landrum High School served as the National Beta Club’s first chartered chapter in 1934, and Sierra Wedde is also a member.

The Mary and Tommy Johnson Scholarship is coordinated through the University of South Carolina Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support. Recipients may attend any Carolina campus, according to Student Affairs/Academic Support Director of Development Polly Laffitte.

— Article provided by Larry Di Giovanni, University of South Carolina Development Communications