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Johnsons to Receive UW Medallion Service Award

September 29, 2014
older photo of  young man and woman sitting with man's arm around woman
Peter and Paula Johnson are shown when they both were students at the University of Wyoming. After launching successful careers, they provided funding to establish a career center in the UW College of Business. (UW Alumni Association)

When Peter M. Johnson (B.S. ’72) and Paula Green Johnson (B.S. ’72) launched the Peter M. and Paula Green Johnson Career Center at the University of Wyoming College of Business, they were trying to solve a basic problem.

That is, how to help students get jobs in the fields they’d trained for at UW. Their answer to this fundamental question is a key reason they are co-recipients of the University Medallion Service Award for 2014.

The Medallion Service Award, initiated in 1968 but not given annually, recognizes outstanding service and dedication to the university. The Johnsons will ride in UW's Homecoming parade Saturday, Oct. 18, and will be recognized at the UW-San Jose State football game.

The idea for the center started in 2004, when Peter Johnson served as the first executive in residence at the College of Business. He had been asked to draw on his expertise as president of the Sinclair Oil Corp.’s oil division to speak to students.

“I prepared my thoughts primarily around how you succeeded in a career, not how you get a career,” he says. So, he was surprised that almost no hands were raised when he asked students how many had secured their first professional jobs. Of the few who did raise their hands, the typical explanation was that they were returning to their hometowns to work at the family business, Johnson recalls.

“If students are going to college in a program that prepares them for a specific career, like engineering, law, business, and so forth, UW hasn’t finished the job until they provided adequate assistance finding a job in that field,” he says.

So, in 2007, the couple donated $1 million to endow the Career Center, which assists business students with comprehensive career planning services that start at the beginning of a student's college journey.

Paula Green Johnson also shares a deep passion for the journey of college students, but comes at it from a slightly different angle than does her husband. She graduated from UW with a degree in speech pathology and audiology. She wound up working in a different field, but now dedicates her energy to volunteer service with numerous organizations. She is particularly interested in empowering women and girls, and working for social and racial justice.

She says she was raised to believe she could accomplish anything in life she wanted. Then, she learned that the world “works differently.” She recalls a time when women were not admitted into Ivy League schools, but now they are.

“On the international scene, so many women can’t have an education,” she says. “In Nigeria right now, they are getting kidnapped if they try.”

Both Johnsons are passionate about giving back to UW.

“We say to our scholarship recipients, ‘You get this funding. What I expect from you, when you are at our station in life, is that it’ll be your turn to give back,’” Paula Johnson says.

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