West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty Jr. today (Oct. 9) announced a $2 million gift from the estate of J. Vance and Florence Highland Johnson to establish a Chinese Studies Program at the University.

This initiative spotlights the great importance of offering opportunities for our students to understand and compete for jobs in this global village,Hardesty said.

Housed in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the program will be named in honor of the couple, long-time residents of Clarksburg. The J. Vance and Florence Highland Johnson Chinese Studies Program is designed to re-enforce the importance of foreign language mastery and foreign study at the University.

The purpose of the program is to offer West Virginia University students the opportunity to gain speaking proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, to study about contemporary China and to spend a year of study at a Chinese university,said Eberly College Dean Mary Ellen Mazey.It complements Chinese initiatives already in place in the colleges of Business and Economics and Creative Arts, as well as in the Office of International Programs.

The endowment will support the multidisciplinary program with four fundamental components: two professorshipsone in the teaching of Chinese in the Department of Foreign Languages and one in Chinese Studies; a student support fund for study abroad; and a library fund.

In the study abroad program, students may spend the equivalent of one academic year studying in the native language at a Chinese university. Its participants will be known as Johnson Scholars. The library fund will build and maintain a quality Chinese collection to support faculty and students in the Chinese Studies program.

Courses will be offered in a variety of academic areas, including language, culture, history and politics.

J. Vance Johnson, who died Dec. 21, 1974, was an accountant and active in the Clarksburg Art Center. He wrote and directed plays performed by members of the Art Center.

Florence Johnson, who died Oct. 10, 2005, was a long-time director of the Clarksburg Publishing Co., which was founded by her late father, Virgil Lee Highland. A 1939 WVU graduate with a bachelors degree in English, she was a Phi Beta Kappa and received the Elizabeth Davis Richards Award from the English Department. She served as a Mountain State Forest Festival princess and was a member of the Tuesday Club in Clarksburg.

The Johnsons were well known for philanthropic endeavors and among the recipients of their generosity were WVU , United Hospital Center and Clarksburg Baptist Church. During her lifetime, Mrs. Johnson, who was fluent in French, was a strong Eberly College supporter, especially in the area of study abroad and of the English and French departments.

The couples gift was made to the WVU Foundation, an independent 501�(3) corporation chartered in 1954 to generate, administer, invest and disburse contributed funds and properties in support of West Virginia University and its nonprofit affiliates.

On behalf of the entire University community, I thank the Johnson family for their generosity, and I congratulate the Foundation, Dean Mary Ellen Mazey and the Department of Foreign Languages on this landmark announcement,Hardesty said.