Johnson Scholarship Foundation pledges $1 million to Florida Opportunity Scholarships

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has pledged $1 million -- $200,000 per year for five years -- in a challenge grant benefiting the endowment for the Florida Opportunity Scholarship program at the University of Florida.  

The award is the first of its kind from the foundation to the university; its goal is to inspire others to give to the program.  The pledge is a four-to-one challenge grant, which means that for each of the next five years the university raises $800,000 in cash gifts, the foundation contributes $200,000. Each gift is leveraged by others to be worth five times its face value. If successful, the challenge will result in $5 million to the Florida Opportunity Scholarship endowment, which will provide scholarships to select students in the program each year, in perpetuity.

"The generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation will translate into a new life for scores of students,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you just give a young person the right opportunity and then step out of the way, they will amaze you. This challenge grant creates just that kind of opportunity."

Florida Opportunity Scholarships support students admitted to the University of Florida on their own merit who come from low-income households and are the first in their family to attend college. The program ensures that qualified students have a chance to enroll at UF regardless of family income. The scholarship provides discretionary funds for students who are admitted but cannot afford the standard expenses of tuition, books, fees, meals, housing and transportation.  

“The Florida Opportunity Scholarship program provides financial support to students who might otherwise not be able to afford a university education. It gives these students the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge for a successful career and life,” said Malcolm Macleod, president and CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. “The Florida Opportunity Scholarship Program fits perfectly with the mission of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. The 4-to-1 matching by University of Florida demonstrates outstanding commitment to the Florida Opportunity Scholarship program, and we are proud to be its partner in this venture.”

The program currently supports about 1,400 students, or roughly 300 per class year. The program’s total operating budget was $8 million in 2011-2012, with average scholarships costing $6,000 per student per year. Needed scholarship support for the program will increase to $12 million in 2012-13 as a result of decreases in federal Pell Grant and Bright Futures Scholarship funding.

In the first two graduating classes, alumni of the program have gone on to graduate school, medical and law schools,  jobs with the Department of Justice, Department of the Navy and  companies such as Amazon and eBay. 

With the assistance of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s $1 million pledge, along with other private donations, the Florida Opportunity Scholarship program will continue to change not only the lives of students across Florida but also the lives of their families and communities for the long term.  

For more information, visit the Florida Opportunity Scholarship Web site at To listen to the WUFT story, please visit

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation is based in West Palm Beach and was founded by Theodore R. Johnson and his wife of 52 years, Vivian Chesley Macleod Johnson.  The Johnson Scholarship Foundation mandate specifically recognizes individuals who are ‘disadvantaged because of their social or economic circumstances’. Through the establishment of the Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson sought to help future generations of deserving people to educate themselves. 

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