Julie Johnson '82

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“I believe the education Dickinson provides is very important for the future. ... This is my way of leaving a legacy.”


The personalized liberal-arts education Julie Johnson '82 found at Dickinson prepared her to be nimble and ready to work and make a difference in a range of fields. To make sure that kind of education remains available to future students, she discovered a way to make a larger gift to Dickinson that she first thought possible—she joined the Old West Society by making Dickinson a beneficiary in her life-insurance plan.

Interested in working with the deaf since she was in high school, Johnson wanted to find a way to deepen her knowledge of that community while at Dickinson. Instead of immersing herself in another culture by going abroad, she worked closely with faculty to craft a personalized “study abroad” program at Gallaudet University, where she immersed herself in the deaf community and gained fluency in American Sign Language.

“At another school, they might have just said, ‘Sorry, that’s not an abroad program. You can’t do that.’ But at Dickinson, it was, ‘Well, let’s draft a proposal and see what’s possible,’ ” says Johnson, who majored in biology at Dickinson. “That was very important to me.”

After graduation, she worked as a middle-school math and science teacher for hearing-impaired children. However, her flexible liberal-arts education allowed her to move into jobs in nonprofit management and, most recently, a position as program director in the Division of Research on Learning at the National Science Foundation.

Recently, Johnson began looking for the best way to ensure that the education that set her up for success would be there for future generations. The best way to do that, she found, was joining the Old West Society.

“I believe the education Dickinson provides is very important for the future,” she explains. “I would love to be able to just write a big check for a new building or for an endowed faculty chair. Unfortunately, that’s not something I can do. But then I found what I could do is make that big gift by making the college a beneficiary in my life-insurance plan. This is my way of leaving a legacy.”