The Johnson Family: Ensuring access

The Johnsons – Kris ’73, Berit, Kelsey and Robbin
Kris ’73, Berit, Kelsey and Robbin Johnson
Home: Wayzata, Minnesota
Gifts to For the Hill and Beyond:
  • $1.5 million to establish and endow the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund to give more St. Olaf students the opportunity to take part in high-impact learning experiences and pursue their post-graduation goals.
  • The Ruth and Ted Olson Family Scholarship, a scholarship funded by Kris and her siblings in honor of their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
  • St. Olaf Fund Loyalty Society and Leadership Circle members
  • Manitou Heights Society members

Impact: Annually the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund will provide 25 to 30 grants of up to $5,000 each to help low-income students participate in study abroad, off-campus internships, and related high-impact opportunities.

“As I look back, I realize that many of the leadership, communication and analytical skills I developed during those four years are still important in my work today.”

Why: “Our daughters, Berit and Kelsey, brought to our attention the difficulty many low-income students have in accessing out-of-classroom educational experiences and internship opportunities,” Kris shares. “We decided as a family that was an area where we could have a meaningful impact.”

On the Hill: Kris majored in economics, political science and mathematics, was Phi Beta Kappa, and a member of the forensics club. She also spent a semester studying abroad at Cambridge in 1972. Attending St. Olaf was a family affair: four of Kris’ siblings also attended St. Olaf, as did some of their children.

Beyond: Upon graduating, Kris worked in Cargill public affairs, then to Medtronic where she served in several leadership roles including president and general manager of two business units. Currently Kris is president of Affinity Capital Management, a venture capital firm investing in health care companies. In 1996 she received St. Olaf’s Distinguished Alumni Award and is chair of the St. Olaf Board of Regents. Robbin, an alumnus of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar, worked at Cargill 36 years, retiring as a senior vice president.

Of her time on the Hill: “My time at St. Olaf was filled with great courses, great faculty, and great experiences both on and off campus,” shares Kris. “I made lifelong friends and learned from mentors who cared deeply about me. As I look back, I realize that many of the leadership, communication and analytical skills I developed during those four years are still important in my work today.”

Why they give: “Growing up my parents always prioritized giving, to our church and others in need, even when our resources were limited. Those early experiences reinforced the importance of helping others who didn’t have the benefits that I did. Both Rob and I attended school on scholarship made possible from gifts—others helped us, and we want to make sure we do the same.”