The Johnsons have been been married for over 60 years, and husband Herbert Johnson found a meaningful way to honor the birthday of his wife Ruth. Learn more about the legacy he plans to leave for his wife at Harris-Stowe State University in the story below.

Deborah Marie Johnson, Herbert Johnson, Harris-Stowe State University President LaTonia Collins Smith, Ruth Johnson, Michael Keith Johnson, and Harris-Stowe Vice President of Institutional Advancement Jeff Shaw celebrate the Johnson’s scholarship gift to the college. (Credit: Harris-Stowe State University)

A love of education and helping others have led Herbert and Ruth Johnson to create the Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson Endowed Scholarship and Live and Learn in the Lou Scholarship at Harris-Stowe State University.

“It was because of this loving first-grade teacher who inspired me, that I knew I wanted to become a teacher just like her.”

Herbert A. Johnson established the scholarships to honor his wife, Harris-Stowe graduate Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson, who turned 90 this year.

“Ruth and I have been happily married for 68 years and I knew she would absolutely love this gift,” said Johnson.

Ruth Blanchard Johnson is a native of Aberdeen, Mississippi and moved to St. Louis at an early age with her parents William Scott Blanchard and Elizabeth Ward Blanchard. A product of St. Louis Public Schools, she attended Cole Elementary School and Sumner High School. It was at Cole where Johnson discovered her passion for teaching. 

“At the age of six, my parents moved to St. Louis, and I enrolled at Cole Elementary School in the 1st grade. This was a frightening experience being all alone, in a strange surrounding, but the teacher, Ms. G. James received me with open arms, taught me with patience, love and encouraged me,” said Mrs. Johnson.

“Her advice was to always believe in yourself and say, ‘I can do it if I try.’ It was because of this loving first-grade teacher who inspired me, that I knew I wanted to become a teacher just like her.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Stowe Teachers College, a predecessor of Harris-Stowe State University, in 1953. She later received a master’s degree in Education from the University of Illinois and completed additional coursework at Webster University. 

As a student at Stowe, Johnson was a part of the Royal Court, serving as First Lady of Stowe (1951) and was initiated into the Alpha Omega Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. After graduating from Stowe, she began her career as a SLPS teacher.

“My first teaching experience, believe it or not, was first grade at Attucks Elementary School, which brought back memories of my wonderful first-grade teacher,” she said.

Johnson served as a reading specialist, instructional coordinator, and assistant principal before retiring with honor after 37 years.

“It is because of the loving support of my husband of 68 years who encouraged me in my every endeavor that my teaching career was a success,” she said.

The Johnsons are parents of two children – a son, Michael Keith Johnson, and Deborah Marie Johnson. Since her retirement, Mrs. Johnson has enjoyed spending time with family, traveling, and volunteering with numerous community organizations. 

“Teaching was exciting, challenging, and a fulfillment of my lifelong dream,” she said. “However, it was always my desire to do community service. It’s not the length of time you have given, it’s how much you’ve given to others during that time.” 

She is a member of St. Philips Evangelical Lutheran Church, YWCA COA, Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council, Annie Malone Children’s Home, and CAPS at Barnes -Jewish Hospital.

Her motto is, “If I can help someone along the way, then my living will not be in vain.”

The $44,000 Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson Endowed Scholarship will benefit full-time students majoring in education. In addition, the $6,000 Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson Live and Learn in the Lou Scholarship will be awarded the year it is donated, allowing the Johnson’s the ability to immediately impact students. 

 “Through Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s legacy gift, they are planting a seed that will continue to grow education professionals for the life of the University. Harris-Stowe is blessed to have donors like Mr. and Mrs. Johnson,” said Jeff Shaw, vice president of the HSSU Office of Institutional Advancement. 

To support the Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson Live and Learn in the Lou Scholarship or Ruth Elizabeth Blanchard Johnson Endowed Scholarship or learn more about supporting students at Harris-Stowe State University, visit, or contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at (314) 340-3386.