Fran Johnston '61

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Fran Johnston Donor College of WoosterFran Johnston '61 believes that every generation has an obligation to provide opportunities for those who follow. That's why she decided to create an estate note for her alma mater, which she says has given her "so much."

Johnston and her classmates will celebrate their 50th reunion this summer, and she is excited about the chance to give back. "The estate note was a good option for me," says Johnston. "I like the flexibility that it brings."

An estate note is an irrevocable debt against the donor's estate that can be established without a revision of one's current will or estate plans. Estate notes count toward a class 50th anniversary fund or other giving opportunities at Wooster and may be designated for specific purposes.

Johnston, who graduated from high school in Geneseo, Ill., was strongly encouraged to consider Wooster by her father, a Presbyterian minister and a Wooster graduate. After some initial resistance, Johnston warmed up to the idea, which put her in the same class as her cousin, Frederick, whose father and mother were also Wooster graduates.

It didn't take long for Johnston to embrace the College's approach to learning and the opportunity for close relationships with many of the faculty. "I majored in speech and psychology," she says. "Dr. Drushal was a favorite of mine. Drs. Craig and Logan also had an impact. Everyone was very gracious with their time and willingness to do whatever they could to help us learn and grow." 

After graduation, Johnston enrolled at the University of Iowa, where she earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in speech pathology and audiology. Her academic success at the graduate level was a direct result of the preparation she received at Wooster. "My master's thesis and doctoral dissertation were extensions of my Senior I.S.," says Johnston, who served on Wooster's Alumni Board from 1977 to 1980. "Developing the skills to conduct research at Wooster really helped me in my later studies and continues to drive my interest in learning."

After earning her doctorate, Johnston taught for 10 years at Northeastern University and Boston University. She then made a career change and became an association executive. She worked for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Washington, D.C., where she managed the organization's conventions and professional meetings for 20 years.

Today, she resides in Rockville, Md., and lives in the same high-rise condominium as her friend, Eleanor "Ellie" Elson Heginbotham, a 1960 Wooster graduate. Throughout her life, Johnston has sought opportunities to learn new things. "I credit my experience at Wooster for that," she says. "A liberal arts education broadens your interests in so many ways and prepares you for opportunities in life."

One subject that has captured Johnston's attention during retirement is the Revolutionary War. She volunteers once a week in the library of the Society of the Cincinnati, a research facility specializing in the art of war in the 18th century and the War for American Independence. "I am exploring the establishment of an endowment for a special collection in the college library to provide students with the additional resources they need to understand and appreciate this country's struggle for freedom and democracy."

Thanks to some meticulous estate management, that dream may soon become a reality.