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Margaret Garrison
Kelley School

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2003

Johnson Family Fund established to further entrepreneurial programs at IU's Kelley School

Indiana University's Kelley School of Business today (March 10) announced that one of Indiana's most successful business families, the Johnson family of Columbus, Ind., has committed to giving the school a minimum of $1 million to further the programs of its Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The family's new investment of $100,000 each year for a minimum of 10 years will establish the Johnson Family Fund, designed to propel the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to increased levels of performance and achievement, and will support faculty research, sponsor visiting scholars and sustain outreach programs.

"We appreciate the Johnson family's continuing strong support of the center," said Elizabeth Gatewood, director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "This commitment not only benefits our entrepreneurship programs, but also the future of Indiana's business growth. Entrepreneurial development will be critical as the state focuses on the Life Science Initiatives."

In 1957, with $500 in the bank, a small loan from their local bank and an insatiable appetite for success, Dick and Ruth Johnson saw a business opportunity and pursued it. Johnson Oil Co. began as a small distributorship of Shell Oil petroleum products, delivering fuel oils, gasoline and lubricants in the Columbus, Ind., area. Rick Johnson joined the company in 1981 after graduating from IU with a degree in business.

In the 1980s, many service stations were converting to convenience stores selling gasoline. At the forefront of this movement, the Bigfoot food chain was developed and became one of the largest privately owned convenience store/gasoline chains in the United States with 150 Bigfoot convenience stores selling Shell, Amoco and private-brand gasoline products. In 2001, the Johnson family sold the Bigfoot chain of convenience stores to Couch-Tard Inc.

Dick and Rick Johnson have long had close ties to IU and earned IU degrees. In 1998, Dick and his wife Ruth provided an initial gift of $1 million in support of the IU center which now bears their family's name. He also funded the Kelley Entrepreneur-in-Residence program and serves on both the Kelley School's Dean's Advisory Council and the IU Foundation Board of Directors. In 1994, Dick Johnson received the Kelley School's Distinguished Entrepreneur Award.

Rick Johnson has served the Kelley School of Business Alumni Association and currently donates time as an adjunct professor instructing the entrepreneurship class, "Venture Growth Management."

Dick and Rick are currently partners in Johnson Ventures Inc., which is an equity investor in three Indiana companies, Indiana Limestone Co. Inc., One Call Communications and 1st Books Library.