By Shannon Boklaschuk
Students at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will soon have access to additional scholarships to support their educational journeys, thanks to a $100,000 gift to USask’s College of Arts and Science.
The new Gerald & Joan Johnson Endowed Student Award will support undergraduate students in the college who are studying in fine arts, environmental studies or astronomy programs, with a preference for students from southwest Saskatchewan and/or former employees of Cypress Hills Provincial Park.
“On behalf of the College of Arts and Science, I would like to express our gratitude for this generous gift to fund the Gerald & Joan Johnson Endowed Student Award,” said Dr. Peta Bonham-Smith (PhD), Dean of the College of Arts and Science.
“Our college is proud to be the home of the fine arts and astronomy on the University of Saskatchewan campus, and we also offer several interdisciplinary environmental programs that address some of the most important issues of our time. These excellent degree pathways will be strengthened by this new award, which will provide support to our talented and dedicated students as they continue to work toward their academic goals and be what the world needs.”
The scholarship fund was established by the Friends of Cypress Hills Park, a not-for-profit organization that works collaboratively with Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills Provincial Park to enhance educational, recreational and interpretive programs in the area and to assist in the maintenance and securing of facilities in the park. The gift was made possible thanks to the generosity of Gerald and Joan Johnson, longtime residents of Cypress Hills Park.
The Johnsons, who had lived in a cottage in the area on a full-time basis since the 1980s, approached the Friends of Cypress Hills Park around 2003 to see if the group would be interested in taking their home to repurpose as a retreat space. After the Friends acquired the cottage, it served as an artists’ retreat for several years, from about 2015 until 2020. The Friends later decided to sell the cottage and establish the Gerald & Joan Johnson Endowed Student Award with some of the proceeds of the sale.
“I kind of feel that the Friends are just a go-between here—it really is money that came from Gerald and Joan Johnson,” said Gerald Gartner, CEO of the Friends of Cypress Hills Park.
The scholarships will specifically support astronomy, environmental studies and fine arts students, as Gerald and Joan Johnson were interested in those subject areas. The Friends previously built an observatory with a 60-seat classroom and a telescope in Cypress Hills, and Gerald Johnson served as one of the leaders on that project, said Gartner.
The Gerald & Joan Johnson Endowed Student Award will be open to continuing undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the fine arts or astronomy (including a minor), as well as environmental studies programs offered in the College of Arts and Science, such as environment and society, environmental biology and environmental geoscience.
Gartner said education was always important to Gerald and Joan Johnson, so it’s fitting that their legacy will live on through the student awards. Gerald Johnson passed away in 2017, while Joan Johnson continues to live in the Swift Current area.
The Friends of Cypress Hills Park wanted to ensure that Gerald and Joan Johnson were recognized for their generosity by naming the award in their honour, said Gartner.
“We felt that it was important that we recognize that it was Gerald and Joan Johnson that started this whole process. That’s why we dedicated it to them.”