Published April 19, 2015

New scholarship

Award established in honor of Tom Johnson, former Mellinger Foundation president

The Edward Arthur Mellinger Educational Foundation, Inc., has established a $10,000 annual scholarship at Monmouth College in honor of its former president, Tom Johnson.
 
To be awarded for the first time this spring, the Tom Johnson Scholarship will be presented to a Monmouth College junior who best exemplifies Johnson’s work ethic and values. A respected Monmouth banker and devoted community leader for more than four decades, Johnson continued his commitment to bettering the community when he assumed the presidency of the foundation following his retirement from banking.
 

Selected each year by the faculty of the political economy and commerce department, the student who receives the scholarship does not have to be a business major, but must have demonstrated interest and ability in business.
 
In announcing the scholarship, Mellinger Foundation President Dr. Gary Willhardt said that Johnson learned and appreciated the value of hard work growing up on his family’s farm. He also worked as a mechanic, a laborer building grain bins, and house painter. “Tom found squandering time a major sin,” Willhardt said. 
 
Johnson began his career in banking in the early 1950s. He became executive vice president of Monmouth Trust and Savings Bank, eventually moving to his work as president of Marquette Bank. From early in his career, Johnson made farm loans his specialty, becoming known as “the farmer’s banker,” and building one of the strongest farm loan operations in the region
 
“He would meet a farmer at dawn, in the field, because Tom had the time and the farmer didn’t,” Willhardt said.
 
In the early 1980s, Johnson joined the board of trustees of the Mellinger Foundation, established in Monmouth in 1959 to provide financial assistance for deserving students to attend accredited colleges within the United States. As a trustee and later president, he became especially committed to making higher education available to as many aspiring students as possible. Under his leadership, the foundation has assisted hundreds of area students in making the dream of higher education a reality.
 
“We are pleased and honored at the establishment of this new scholarship,” said Monmouth College President Clarence R. Wyatt. “Monmouth is committed to being a place of high opportunity and high achievement, and the Tom Johnson Scholarship is a great boost to those twin goals. We are grateful for this latest demonstration of the Mellinger Foundation’s support of our college and our community.”
 
Professor Michael Connell, chair of the political economy and commerce department, who was instrumental in the creation of the scholarship, observed, “So many of our students have to borrow money to pursue their education. That debt limits the future options of graduates. This gift will allow one student each year to start life after college in a better position and will have a lasting impact on their life.”
 
Added Connell, “It is my hope that the presence of this scholarship will encourage other hard-working students to come to Monmouth College. When that happens, we will all benefit from this gift – the new students, their classmates, the faculty and the college.”

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