Parental Honors

DATE: Friday, April 3, 2020

Retired professor Candy Johnson endows HCC Foundation scholarship

Candy Johnson

Editor's Note: This story appears in the Spring 2020 issue of HCC's Alumni Connection magazine.


Candida "Candy" Johnson has always been inspired by her parents' devotion to education and love of the arts.

They were educators, and having them as role models led Johnson to a 35-year career as a teacher of business administration at HCC, a job from which she retired in 2011 and is eternally grateful for.

"Every day brought something or someone new to the classroom and to my life," she said.

For the past 19 years, Johnson has made monetary donations to HCC. And now, to honor her parents, who died within seven months of each other in 2016 and 2017, she has established the Edward and Verdenal Johnson Memorial Scholarship through the HCC Foundation.

Starting next year the scholarship will be awarded annually to an HCC student studying fine arts or music.

"Honoring my parents in a way that values education seemed logical to me," Johnson said. "And a scholarship supporting students in the arts is an extension of all of that. As educators, my parents were never rich, but their lives certainly were."

They met at Swarthmore College in 1945; she studied psychology, he engineering. Their path saw him later earn a master's degree in education at Columbia University and go on to become a high school guidance counselor and swim coach. Likewise, her mother, after being a stay-at-home mom, went back to school to earn her master's degree in American studies at Seton Hall University. She became a high school English teacher.

"Dad was all about encouraging his students to pursue their educations so that they might achieve their goals in life, and mom worked hard to help her students become as proficient in English as she could while supporting the same goals," Johnson said.

In the 1960s, when Johnson was in high school and later college, her parents co-owned the Argus Gallery, a fine arts gallery in Madison, N.J., just 25 miles outside New York City, attracting artists of national acclaim.

They also enjoyed theater and dance, and their adventures took them frequently to the city for Broadway productions such as Hair and Oh! Calcutta! – both considered controversial at the time – as well as Off Broadway shows and the New York City Ballet. Her mother even worked a while as arts editor at the Newark Star Ledger.

"Candy's longstanding support of HCC and our students is truly remarkable," said Patrick D. Carpenter, director of Institutional Advancement. "I continue to be impressed as I learn more about Candy, her upbringing, the important lessons instilled in her by her parents, and her decades-long relationship with HCC as a faculty member, volunteer, and donor."

Johnson's giving spirit emerges in other ways. Each week, she helps serve free lunch to veterans and their families at St. Paul's Church in Holyoke, inspired after watching her father volunteer until the age of 94 at a community lunch at a church in Portsmouth, N.H. Since his passing, she has carried on the family tradition at St. Paul's.

Johnson, a Holyoke resident, volunteers for the HCC Foundation, reviewing scholarship applications, an activity she finds inspiring and satisfying because she learns about so many young people overcoming challenges.

In 2002, as an HCC professor, Johnson received the HCC Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence, which honors one faculty member each year "who exemplifies the characteristics associated with outstanding classroom teaching." Johnson considered the honor a "wonderful affirmation of my efforts in the classroom."

"I used my Marieb award to travel to the United Kingdom and France, where I met with faculty and administrators of business degree programs, exploring how each institution handled activities like internships and cooperative education opportunities to facilitate students' better understanding of their place in the now global economy," she said.

Besides HCC, Johnson taught economics at the Poltava Cooperative Institute in Ukraine, now the Poltava University of Economics and Trade.

Her former office in the Kittredge Center (KC 425) is marked with a plaque that reads, "Made possible through the generosity of the Poltava Connection." But that was just Johnson, who had made all her donations to the HCC Foundation anonymously. Until now.

"What I find most inspiring about Candy is that she remains determined as ever to help our students achieve their goals," Carpenter said. "Candy continues to set an example about the true nature of being in service to HCC students."

PHOTOS: (Thumbnail) Ed and Verdi Johnson (Above) Retired professor Candy Johnson stands next to the plaque outside her former office in the HCC Kittredge Center.