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Couple gives for 50+ years

Don and Alice Johnston

A list of Don and Alice Ann Johnston’s contributions to the University of Kansas and to the Lawrence community would fill this page. They have given to KU every year since 1962, making more than 375 gifts in total. Alice Ann has been a docent at the Spencer Museum of Art for 30 years. 

Don and Alice Johnston

Don, as an officer of Intrust Bank’s northeast Kansas region, has served on countless public boards and KU committees. Native Kansans, Alice Ann from Council Grove and Don from Pittsburg, both learned early about community involvement.

“I grew up in that kind of household,” Alice Ann said. “A great effort to be community-responsible continued throughout my parents’ lives. I always knew that you do more than you think you can — that’s just what you should do.”

Don added, “The people I saw as role models growing up were involved in the community, and it just became second nature.”

Alice Ann graduated from Mount Holyoke College; Don earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1956 and a law degree in 1966, both from KU.

“My family didn’t have any money,” Don said. “I got the Navy ROTC scholarship, which was a really good thing — tuition, books and so much a month. KU Endowment was also an early factor in getting me here.”

Later, during Don’s two years in law school, Alice Ann worked for Irvin Youngberg, KU Endowment’s longtime executive secretary. She said, “It was an exciting time at KU, the 100th anniversary of the founding. Even though I didn’t go to KU, I felt like I knew everybody.”

They moved back to Lawrence in 1983, when their twin sons were in sixth grade and their daughter was a junior in high school. All three have now graduated from KU, even though most of their friends at Lawrence High wanted to go away to college. Alice Ann said, “For them, KU was just the only spot in the world, their own little piece of heaven.”

The Johnstons have given to more than 50 different funds at KU. Currently, their main interests are campus venues for humanities studies and the fine and performing arts.

“Alice Ann was in the liberal arts, and I wasn’t,” Don said. “I met her, and I thought, what am I missing? The comparative absence of liberal arts in my education began to come forward. Things like the Lied and the Hall Center and the Spencer became so important because it was such fun to finally connect in those ways.”

Don’s explanation for their commitment to community is simple: “We’re all on this planet together, we’re all in this town together. Our lives are interwoven; they’re not separate.” Alice Ann added, “If you can do some little thing, if it’s no more than a smile, to turn somebody’s day around, that’s worthwhile.”

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