Longtime Washington State University supporters and alumni Mike and Liz Johnson are making the largest-ever commitment to The Libraries at WSU, a bequest valued at $3.2 million. By naming the libraries as beneficiary of their estate, the Kirkland, Wash., couple looks to ensure the libraries keep pace in the future with the ever-changing ways information is stored and shared.
“This isn’t your grandfather’s library and it’s still changing very fast,” said Mike. “Libraries prepared to keep up with technology and communication trends are vibrant places that facilitate academic scholarship and research with resources outside of, but not excluding, actual books.”
The Johnsons designated their bequest for unrestricted use. As such, the dean of the libraries can determine how best to strategically leverage the funds to make the greatest impact at the time they are received. Current priorities for The Libraries at WSU include developing life skills through student employment, continuing education and professional development for staff, and upgrading electronic equipment, but by making an unrestricted commitment, the Johnsons are providing for the priorities of the future, whatever they might be.
“Mike and Liz want to make a significant impact on their alma mater by contributing to a unit that supports every single person in the university system. Libraries are literally the University’s crossroads of learning,” said Jay Starratt, dean of The Libraries at WSU. “The Johnsons recognize this and understand that although the look of libraries and the nature of their services are changing, the importance of libraries in the success of a university is not diminished.”
The libraries at WSU’s Pullman campus as well as those at the Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses collectively offer more than 2.1 million book volumes and 30,000 periodical subscriptions in addition to other resources. The collection is further extended through participation in a consortium of 37 Washington, Oregon, and Idaho libraries, offering students and faculty access to more than 28 million items.
“Attracting, retaining, and developing the best minds in academia requires access to meticulously curated knowledge, academic resources, and historical records,” said Liz Johnson. “We are proud that our gift will help WSU continue doing just that well into the future and hope that others will also be inspired to support the critical work being done by WSU’s libraries.”
Liz is a 1976 communication major, and Mike earned two degrees from WSU—a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1975 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1976. The couple met at WSU and studied together in the Holland Library in Pullman before they married and moved out of state to attend graduate school.
Liz retired from Microsoft in 2008 and now works in strategic sourcing and program management with Coinstar/Redbox. After leaving the financial departments of several major insurance companies in 2001, Mike has been a private funds money manager.
“We are grateful for Mike and Liz Johnson’s visionary leadership and generous commitment to the future of The Libraries at WSU,” said Elson S. Floyd, WSU president. “They understand the critical role private support plays in advancing the essential services provided by the libraries and have planted the seed for a truly valuable legacy from which the entire community will benefit.”
The Johnsons’ generous estate commitment is a part of The Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas. Since July 2006, the campaign has raised more than $670.8 million toward a goal of $1 billion to increase support for WSU’s students, faculty, research and programs and to leverage the university’s impact across the state, nation and world.