Kindred Spirits Help Others

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn Palm Beach Atlantic University President

In 1 Corinthians 16 we learn the Apostle Paul saw a great door of opportunity for his upcoming work, but he also saw significant obstacles in the way. I want to tell you about two hard-working business students whose stories explain much about overcoming obstacles, taking advantage of opportunities and extending opportunity to others. 

A pair of kindred spirits

These two students never met, for they were generations apart, but I see them as kindred spirits. The first was Theodore R. “Ted” Johnson, who was born into a middle-class family in 1901. He worked his way through college and joined a fledgling company called United Parcel Service.

Theodore R. “Ted” Johnson

He earned his MBA at night school and advanced in management in the company, which was rapidly growing to become the giant we know today as UPS. He became a vice president, and though he never made a huge salary by today’s standards, he bought shares of his company’s stock at every opportunity. Thanks to the growth of that stock value, he retired as a multi-millionaire. 

With the phenomenal success of his investment, Ted invested in the lives of others. He and his wife, Vivian, established the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to help deserving young people obtain an education. 

“Need is the thing,” he told a New York Times reporter. “There are so many kids that can’t go to college.”

 

Giving $8 million annually in grants

Taylor Boyd at commencement with her Outstanding Graduate Award

I’m struck by the phrase “so many kids,” because the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, with careful investment of its capital, now each year makes grants totaling $8 million or more. These grants have a three-pronged target, to help Indigenous peoples, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. At Palm Beach Atlantic University, we are so grateful that over the years more than 6,300 PBA students have received Johnson Scholarships. 

Taylor Boyd, one of those Johnson Scholars, entered PBA as a transfer student, coming through that door of opportunity determined to make the most of it. Dr. Lane Cohee, associate professor of management and associate dean of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. School of Business, described Taylor this way: “Always prepared, always sitting in the front row, always asking lots of questions and always providing lots of input and follow-through.”

More than that, Lane said, Taylor “is just a warm, caring person,” always eager to help others. She went on a service trip to Panama her first semester, she volunteered with the high school ministry at Family Church, and after learning the ropes as a transfer student, she became a peer mentor in the program that helps transfer students settle in. 

In December 2019 Taylor walked the stage as the Rinker School of Business Outstanding Graduate. Everyone knew she had a bright future ahead, but then came that unexpected challenge for job hunters of that time: COVID-19.

Taylor was undaunted. She already had planned sort of a transitional year, in which she would explore different paths for her future. She spent a lot of time helping her parents with projects, she got very involved with her local church and she studied for the Law School Admission Test. 

“I just got to thinking how much you can help people with the law,” said Taylor. “I  wanted to see if I could get a good score on the LSAT and write good essays. And God really came through and opened a lot of doors for me.”

 

Headed for law school

One of those doors opened as a scholarship at Stetson University College of Law, where Taylor will begin her next adventure this fall. She sees her bachelor’s degree in management, her service in the local church and her upcoming legal training all meshing together, preparing her for her calling.

“If you think about it,” said Taylor, “being Christ-like is having good customer service to everybody: just being kind to people. And one of the main reasons I want to be a lawyer is to be able to help people, to advocate on their behalf. I think that has a lot to do with the lifestyle of Jesus as well, being that voice for the needy, showing compassion to those in need.”

In Taylor’s compassion and eagerness to help people, I hear echoes of Ted Johnson. I think he would smile to see young Taylor in action and to hear of her plans and dreams.

As I think about Taylor’s goals, I see this cycle continuing: hard work, overcoming obstacles, having compassion and investing in others. I’m excited to imagine the investment in people that Johnson Scholars like Taylor have made and will continue to make. 

At PBA we readily identify with Robert A. Krause, CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, who explains the foundation “is in the people business.” In the foundation’s annual report he said, “The intrinsic value of what we do is best illustrated in the life change of people. We are but a part of their story, but they are the biggest part of ours.”

 

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (www.pba.edu) For more articles by Dr. Schwinn, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-debra-a-schwinn/

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