Dean Sri Zaheer with brothers Michael (left) and Todd Johnson of Johnson Brothers.

Making a Difference

Friday, October 8, 2021

Johnson Brothers $1 million gift will support underrepresented Minnesota students at Carlson School.


Brothers Michael and Todd Johnson are the second generation to own and operate their family business, aptly named Johnson Brothers. When their father, Lynn Johnson, started the company in St. Paul in 1953, it was a one-man operation. Since those scrappy entrepreneurial beginnings, the family grew Johnson Brothers into one of the leading beverage distributors in the U.S., operating in 20 states. Their continued success is possible, the brothers note, due to a dedicated team of more than 3,300 employees.

Among the factors that contribute to the strength of their workforce is a company-wide commitment to diversity and inclusion, ensuring their employees represent a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It is this commitment, and their family’s longstanding dedication to the University of Minnesota, that prompted Johnson Brothers to endow a $1 million scholarship gift this spring. The Johnson Brothers Scholarship for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will help to establish a pipeline of diverse talent in Minnesota and across the region.

“As a member of the Carlson School Board of Advisors, I know how committed the University is to diversity, equity, and inclusion—in particular, their focus on advancing underrepresented students from Minnesota,” Johnson Brothers CEO Michael Johnson, ’84 CLA, says. “We share this commitment at Johnson Brothers. With this scholarship, our goal is to enable diverse students from Minnesota with the opportunity to get a world-class education.”

Undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds in Minnesota are eligible to receive this multi-year, renewable funding. Such scholarships decrease the financial burden on students and help the Carlson School to attract the most promising students.

“We want to make a positive difference in the lives of these students and help to build business leaders,” says Todd Johnson, COO of Johnson Brothers.

This endowed scholarship, which will support students now and for many years into the future, further benefits Johnson Brothers and the entire business community by building a pool of future business leaders with a variety of perspectives, interests, and experiences.

“We want to make a positive difference in the lives of these students and help to build business leaders.”

Todd Johnson

“The Johnson Brothers Scholarship enhances our ability to attract and enroll promising Minnesota students from all backgrounds, bolstering our commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture at the Carlson School,” Dean Sri Zaheer says. “We’re grateful to Johnson Brothers for using business as a force for good, a value we strongly believe in.”

Fall 2021 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Fall 2021 alumni magazine

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