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Retired teacher takes fundraising challenge a step further
Monday, July 23, 2012

Helen Johnson, center, joined her twin brother, Harold, and senior Ellen Konicki, at the College of Education’s Commencement Week Celebratory Luncheon on campus in May. Konicki, a Childhood Inclusive Education-Math major from Blasdell, N.Y., was one of two inaugural recipients of a scholarship Ms. Johnson established in response to the Committee of 200 initiative launch last year.

“Fredonia made it possible for me to pursue my dream. Now it is ‘payback time.’”

That’s how Helen Johnson sees her roll at SUNY Fredonia some 60 years after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Education. Johnson, who enjoyed a 35-year career in education, believes current students should have the same opportunity she had.

“I wanted to do something to help young people today to become teachers,” the 1952 graduate explained. “You see, I was so fortunate. Back in 1948, Fredonia didn’t charge tuition, so that made it possible for me to go to college and become a teacher. All these years I had it in the back of my mind I wanted to do something to help,” she said.

Johnson enthusiastically joined the College of Education’s Committee of 200, formed a year ago by the Fredonia College Foundation to attract individual $200 contributions from College of Education alumni to support current SUNY Fredonia students who share their passion for teaching.

By pooling these contributions, scholarships valued at $2,000 can be awarded to incoming freshmen Education majors. These donations help students defray the costs of tuition, room and board. Every dollar given goes directly to a student. 

The funds given in 2011 by the Committee of 200 will be providing scholarships for nine incoming freshmen this fall. 

So inspired by the mission of the Committee of 200 — and the action of her twin brother, Harold, who set up a scholarship at his alma mater — Johnson went a step further by establishing the Helen Johnson Legacy Scholarship Endowment at SUNY Fredonia. Her fund assists students enrolled in the unique Fredonia-Hamburg Teacher Education program, a cooperative venture between SUNY Fredonia and the Hamburg (N.Y.) Central School District, where Johnson spent most of her career.

Johnson was delighted to meet the two recipients of her scholarship fund this past year: one at the Scholars’ Breakfast and the other at the College of Education’s Commencement Week Celebratory Luncheon. She also visited them at the school where they both happened to be assigned to perform their student teaching: Hamburg Elementary — the very district in which she taught for decades. For Helen, the experience truly brought her “full circle.”

The College of Education will honor all Committee of 200 members and provide them with an opportunity to meet students who received these scholarships at a gathering to be held Homecoming week.  

To learn more about how to invest in future teachers by joining the Committee of 200 or establishing your own endowment scholarship fund, contact Heather McKeever, associate director of Development at the Fredonia College Foundation. She can also be reached at or (716) 673-3321.


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