The Vandal Volunteer
While attending the University of Idaho and pursuing bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology, E. Whitney “Whit” Johnson ’80 was transformed by the volunteer work he did as a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity.
“I love doing volunteer work,” Johnson said. “My fraternity brothers and I used to go down to the old folks home to entertain the residents with skits like ‘Who’s on First.’ I also volunteered at the suicide hotline twice a week for two years. That really sparked my passion for serving.”
The Idaho native’s involvement with U of I as an alumnus started with attending U of I alumni events. Over the years, Johnson started giving back what he could, when he could, of his time, talent and treasure. In 2005, the longtime Arizona banker stepped up to organize a U of I golf tournament near his home.
“The Phoenix golf tournament was a huge success,” Johnson said. “We had 84 Vandals who attended that first year. The director of the U of I Alumni Association at that time said it was the best alumni event in several years. 2019 marks the 13th annual golf tournament, but after that first year, that’s when I started dedicating more time to the university.”
A few years later, Johnson was invited to apply to the alumni association’s board of directors. He eventually became president of the 120-year-old nonprofit organization’s board and now serves in an advisory capacity as the board’s past president.
“My term will end in May of 2019,” he said. “But of course I will continue to do stuff for Idaho whenever I can.”
As a volunteer, past board president, a lifetime member of the FIJI fraternity and longtime donor, it made perfect sense to Johnson to include a gift to his alma mater in his will. Leaving a gift of this kind to the university qualifies donors to be a part of the U of I Heritage Society, which recognizes alumni and friends who make a future commitment through planned gifts.
For Johnson, the best part about volunteering with the alumni association was the strong relationships he formed with the many Vandals he’s worked with.
“It reconfirmed my belief that U of I produces the greatest people in the world,” he said. “We support the university no matter what. And in that, we will be successful. Go Vandals!”
Article by Josh Nishimoto, University Advancement.
Published in the Spring 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.