Oberlin has created a new merit scholarship for exceptional students from Ohio. Under the new program, named for Mary Elizabeth Johnston, an African-American educator and librarian who began her studies at Oberlin in 1910 and graudated 27 years later, the College will award five $10,000 renewable scholarships to incoming students each year.
To be eligible for this scholarship, a student must be an Ohio resident attending secondary school in the state; have a grade-point average of 3.75 or better; demonstrate significant contributions to his or her community and school; and interview on campus with a member of the admissions staff. Scholarship winners will be known as Mary Elizabeth Johnston scholars.
A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Johnston began her Oberlin education in 1910 but was forced to leave the College because she found it impossible to balance her studies and her work supporting herself as a maid. She vowed to complete her degree. With the recommendation of her former employer, Julia Finney Monroe (the daughter of Oberlin's second president, Charles Grandison Finney), Johnston secured a position as a school teacher in an African-American boarding school in North Carolina. She remained there for 25 years until finally, in 1937, she was able to complete her A.B. degree from Oberlin. At the same time, she was working on a master's degree in library science at Kent State University. In 1952, after more than 20 years of summer study, she received that master's degree.
In 1944 Johnston went to work at the Bordertown (N.J.) Manual Training School for Negros where she was matron, teacher, and dean of girls. She moved to Cleveland in 1956 and was a supporter of the Cleveland Public Library and Karamu House, a multi-ethnic community arts project. She lived out her life in the spirit of community support, education, and philanthropy. Mary Elizabeth Johnston died in January 1982.
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