Franklin College Receives $1 Million Gift

By Franklin College | | 5.13.24

Franklin College has received a $1 million gift commitment from Roger and Janice (Jan) Johnson of Scottsdale, Arizona, along with their two adult children, Greg Johnson and Heather Needham. The gift will designate the basketball court in the Elwood Fitness Center as the “Wonder Five Court.”

“I am tremendously grateful to the Johnson family for their loyal support,” said Franklin College President Kerry N. Prather. “This generous gift not only honors the legacy of the legendary Wonder Five teams, but it also moves forward a project that will enhance our fitness, recreational and athletic facilities. This gift will have a significant impact on current and future Grizzlies as we continue to expand the resources that enable a successful and fulfilling student experience.”

Roger and Jan Johnson consider Franklin and the surrounding area as home, even though they are no longer residents. They are the owners of the Johnson Family farm located east of the college. Franklin, and especially Franklin College, have been a major part of the Johnson family for many decades with multiple family members graduating from the college and serving on the Board of Trustees. Roger’s great grandfather, Andrew J. Johnson, served on the Board in the late 1800s. Roger’s father, Robert (Bob) Johnson, is a 1940 alumnus, served on the Board for 28 years and was elected Chair of the Board in 1976. Elizabeth (Betty) Flinn Johnson, Roger’s mother, also graduated from the college in 1941. Roger’s sister, Susan (Johnson) DeVoss, a 1965 alumna, has served as a trustee since 1997 and was elected as the college’s first female Chair, serving from 2008 to 2013.

“Being Hoosiers has always meant basketball to us,” said Roger. “Name any team that has won three consecutive Indiana high school championships and a national collegiate title besides the Franklin Wonder Five team. Jan and I are very happy and proud to have a small part in preserving the great legacy of the Franklin Wonder Five at Franklin College.”

The Elwood Fitness Center was constructed in 1908 and expanded in the 1920s to accommodate the large crowds following the Franklin Wonder Five basketball team which was crowned national champion in 1923. The renovation and restoration of the facility will preserve the historic integrity of its exterior while fully modernizing the interior spaces. Those will include the Wonder Five Court and aerobic equipment on the main level as well as locker rooms, offices and support areas on the lower level for the athletic teams which compete in adjacent Faught Stadium.

The Johnsons have been generous supporters of the college with multiple major gifts over the years. They most recently established the Roger and Jan Johnson Family Scholarship and the Mack and Lucile Pritchard Maguire Family Scholarship.

“Our hope is that these endowed scholarships assist future students in obtaining their dream of graduating from Franklin College,” said Jan. “We are also hopeful that the recipients will make positive contributions in their communities, become leaders and support future students in their dreams of getting a degree from Franklin.”

Roger and Jan earned bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University. Roger had a 30-year career with Eli Lilly and Co. in sales and marketing. They spent most of that time in southern California where they raised their family. They are proud grandparents of six boys and two girls.

For more information, contact the Franklin College Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

Founded in 1834, Franklin College is a residential liberal arts and sciences institution located 20 minutes south of Indianapolis. Franklin offers a wide array of undergraduate majors as well as master’s degree programs in Physician Assistant Studies and Athletic Training. The unique curriculum merges classroom instruction with immersive experiences, research opportunities and study away programs. Students participate in 21 NCAA Division III sports, esports, Greek life, musical and theatre productions and more than 40 student organizations. As the first college in Indiana to become coeducational with the admission of women, Franklin welcomes diversity of thought, belief and person into a community that values equity and inclusion. Franklin College maintains a voluntary association with the American Baptist Churches USA. For more information, visit Find Franklin College on Facebook, follow @FranklinCollege on X, formerly known as Twitter, and watch FranklinCollegeGrizzlies on TikTok.