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Whitworth University receives $2.05-million gift from the Hugh Johnston estate to endow chemistry professorship and research fund

October 16, 2015
Whitworth University has received a $2.05-million donation from the estate of long-time Whitworth professor and library archivist Hugh Johnston. Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor announced that with this gift, the university will establish the Hugh W. Johnston Endowed Professorship of Chemistry and will initiate an interdisciplinary research fund. Because of Johnston’s generosity, the university will place $550,000 into this endowed fund, moving Whitworth more than halfway toward a $1-million goal for this fund.

“To receive these gifts from Hugh’s estate means a great deal to the university,” Taylor says. “That a former faculty member would love this place so much and be so generous with his resources is an encouragement to all of us. Knowing Hugh and his love for the sciences, especially for chemistry, it’s appropriate that the majority of his gift will enable strong faculty support in that area through the new endowed professorship. And there’s no question that Hugh loved his students, so the generous fund to support student-faculty collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship would make him smile. Thank God for Hugh Johnston.”

Whitworth Provost & Executive Vice President Carol Simon believes the endowed professorship and interdisciplinary research fund will strengthen an already strong chemistry department and will stimulate research collaborations between multiple disciplines. “I am grateful for gifts that have a direct impact on student learning,” Simon says. “This kind of research expands the boundaries of knowledge and addresses complex contemporary problems. Both of these gifts will continue the legacy that Professor Hugh Johnston began during his teaching career, and their impact on future generations of Whitworthians will be significant.”

Johnston was an avid archeologist, Egyptologist and stamp collector. Born in Butte, Mont., he earned his bachelor’s degree from Montana State University, his master’s from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Indiana. Johnston spent many years in plastics research before beginning a career in academia. He started teaching at Whitworth in 1957, and he taught chemistry for 16 years. In 1969, Johnston married fellow faculty member Mary Ruth Boppell, Ph.D. (1915-2007). She was a highly accomplished and respected professor who taught at Whitworth, and subsequently at Eastern Washington, while holding national leadership positions and running an international consulting practice. The Johnstons were committed members of Whitworth Presbyterian Church and were heavily involved in missions work.

Johnston's final 12 years on the Whitworth staff were as director of development services. After his retirement, he volunteered in the archive departments of both the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture and Whitworth University.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Lauren Clark, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or