December 10, 2001 Vol. VI, No. 8

From left, college center director John Guarrera, Mechanical Engineering Chair Sidney Schwartz, engineering Interim Dean Diane Schwartz, Northridge President Jolene Koester and mechanical engineering professor Tim Fox. At right, photos of C.R. Johnson (left in the main image) on campus.

Campus Honors Former Employee Who Donated $700,000

Estate Gift by Physical Plant Staffer C.R. Johnson is the Largest Bequest Ever by a University Staff Member

Cal State Northridge held a special ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 27, to honor former university employee Clendon Robert "C.R." Johnson, who left his nearly $700,000 estate to the campus when he died last year. The gift is the largest bequest ever by a university staff member.

A memorial service and dedication ceremony honoring Johnson and his late wife, Ila, was held in the College of Engineering and Computer Science auditorium. The auditorium was renamed the C.R. and Ila Johnson Memorial Engineering Auditorium in memory of the Johnsons.

When Johnson passed away late last year, the university learned a trust Johnson created was funding a university endowment. The money will be used to provide two scholarships in the memory of Johnson and his wife, and to support energy-related projects within the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

"C.R. Johnson's gift is an example of the commitment the people who work at this university have to our students," said Diane Schwartz, interim dean of the college. "His generosity will provide opportunities for students who might not otherwise have them and continue research in a field he was so passionate about and is so vital to the future of this state and country."

During his more than 20 years in Cal State Northridge's Physical Plant Operations, Johnson often worked with teams of students in the engineering college, exploring various forms of energy and conservation. That relationship continued even after Johnson retired from the university in 1983 and worked as an energy conservation consultant to various state facilities including CSUN.

"C.R. enlightened and enriched the senior design experience for many mechanical engineering students," said Timothy Fox, a mechanical engineering professor who worked closely with Johnson through the years. Fox and John Guarrera, director of the college's Center for Research and Services, are co-executors of Johnson's estate.

"Through his participation, C.R. was able to share real-world experiences and, in the process, exposed students to the inner workings of the campus mechanical and electrical infrastructures. These experiences could not have been gained through textbooks," Fox said.

Johnson was born in Oklahoma on Dec. 12, 1925. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific during the peak of World War II. He was wounded and awarded a Purple Heart.

After the war, he married Ila and traveled to the Middle East, where he worked on U.S. oil fields. The couple returned to the United States in 1962 and settled in California.

Johnson obtained his California Boiler Operator license and joined the staff of what was then San Fernando Valley State College, now Cal State Northridge. He started in the campus boiler house and worked his way up to being head of campus mechanical services. He eventually was named assistant director of CSUN's Physical Plant Operations.

Johnson's passion for education and conservation always brought him in contact with the students in the engineering college. In 1980, he began working directly with student teams in the mechanical engineering senior design program.

He worked with them to explore ways in which the university might develop and refine energy conservation. His dedication to this academic program earned him the appointment of adjunct lecturer to the Department of Mechanical Engineering by then-CSUN President James Cleary.

After his wife passed away in 1990, Johnson established a $1,500 scholarship in her memory. The Ila V. Johnson Memorial Scholarship has benefited a CSUN student with an interest in energy-related issues each year for more than 10 years.

@csun | December 10, 2001 issue
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