When the six Johnston siblings think of their parents, they think about how much the two tried to instill a lifelong love of learning, whether it was at the dinner table, in the family car, or by the examples they set in their lives. To honor their parents, the six grown children—Loretta, Mary, Bill, Chuck, Janice, and John—have given a generous gift to the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Foundation for a scholarship to be established in memory of Raymond B. and Elizabeth H. Estabrook Johnston.
The scholarship, to be known as the Johnston Estabrook Family Scholarship, is meant to serve as a lasting memorial to the couple. Raymond B. Johnston was born Sept. 12, 1921, and Elizabeth Estabrook was born on July 25, 1923. They were high school sweethearts—both were from Houlton and graduated from Houlton High School—and married in 1941. Raymond served in the U.S. Navy aboard a destroyer during World War II and, after returning home, worked for New England Telephone Company. Elizabeth took care of their growing family.
By the time Raymond was transferred to Presque Isle in 1956 for his job with the telephone company, they had four of their children in tow. All six children remember their father as a very hard worker who relied on common sense and determination to solve problems. For him, education was an important goal that he wanted and expected his children to achieve.
“There was not an option,” Chuck Johnston recalled. “You were just expected to graduate from high school and strongly encouraged to go to college.”
In addition, being late for school was not an option. Perfect attendance was a goal, and there was no cavalier attitude about missing school occasionally. All six children graduated from Presque Isle High School and then went on to college at Northern Maine Community College, Fisher College, Mercy School of Nursing and the University of Maine, and their experiences ranged from some coursework to a master’s degree. As Johnston put it: “There’s some college in all of us.”
Both parents considered regular family activities an opportunity to learn: “During our evening meal, we were encouraged to discuss current events and wordsmith around the table,” Chuck Johnston said. “I always thought that was normal and then I found out it wasn’t. What our parents did led to debates and learning. We talked about what happened in class that day. Education, learning and knowledge were always focal points, and that was a concerted effort they both decided was important to do with us.”
The scholarship is also a special tribute to Elizabeth Johnston, who was a 1970 UMPI alumna. Elizabeth, passionate about learning and committed to furthering her education, embraced the opportunity that UMPI afforded her and others. As a mother of six, she pursued her formal post-secondary education, taught English as a Second Language night classes through SAD1, and traveled weekly to Houlton to visit and care for her parents. Janice remembers how her mother would get three things done at the same time during those rides to Houlton—she’d be preparing to help out her parents, have Chuck read her textbook to her so she could study for class, and, in doing that, she’d be reinforcing her son’s reading and comprehension skills.
No matter how busy she was, though, her children remember that she was always very interested in what they were doing in school and was always available to help with homework or projects.
Before she graduated, Elizabeth started working for the migrant education program under a Title I program. After her graduation, she became the director of that program and she continued that work for the rest of her life. Additionally, she continued teaching English as a Second Language through the SAD 1 Adult Education Program.
If she were here to see what is happening with higher education and the many opportunities available now, her children said, she would have thought of UMPI as an even greater resource for all Aroostook County citizens. Because it makes a college education available to anyone who desires it, they said, she wouldn’t have accepted someone saying, “I can’t go to college.”
The new scholarship represents her zest for education and helping others in their endeavors. In fact, the Johnston Family would especially like the scholarship to be awarded to working parents, with dependent children at home, who want to enrich their lives through higher education.
“We are so pleased to see this scholarship established, and to be created especially for nontraditional students who could really use this kind of support,” UMPI President Linda Schott said. “Loretta, Mary, Bill, Chuck, Janice, and John have given a very special gift that continues their parents’ legacy of both valuing a college education and giving people the opportunity to succeed. We look forward to seeing how this gift will help other local families achieve their higher education goals.”
The first scholarship from the new fund will be awarded in the Fall of 2014 in the amount of $500.
For more information or to contribute to the Johnston Estabrook Family Scholarship Fund, please contact UMPI’s Office of Development at 768-9568.