STEPHENVILLE, Texas — In 2012 Drs. Lamar and Marilynn T. Johanson conveyed their ranch — about 1,700 acres and all mineral rights in San Saba and Mills counties, then valued at some $5 million — to The Texas A&M University System for the benefit of Tarleton State University. They retained the right to live on the property.
Today the couple joined university leaders to celebrate a $9 million increase in their life estate gift, bringing their total philanthropic support to almost $15 million — a record for Tarleton. The two spent more than six decades in education, Lamar at Tarleton for 40 years and Marilynn at Texas public schools in 1961-1995.
“Two of Tarleton’s most generous donors, Lamar and Marilynn have poured their heart and soul into transformational learning,” said university President James Hurley. “There’s no way to count the lives that have been changed by their leadership and amazing generosity, or the thousands yet to benefit. We are profoundly grateful.”
In 2021 the Johansons decided to execute their life estate gift early and allow the university to sell the San Sabra property, as originally planned, to expedite endowed scholarships for Tarleton students.
The roughly 800 acres along the Colorado River in Mills County will remain home to Tarleton’s Timberlake Biological Field Station, established in 2015, to advance environmental research, engage students in scientific discovery and promote stewardship of the natural world. A $2.5 million endowment will ensure care and oversight of the property.
“Tarleton and education have been integral parts of our lives, providing us with many eventful and unique opportunities,” Lamar said. “We are blessed to be able to give back to the university that is so dear to our hearts.”
Lamar served 18 years as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and was the inaugural Executive Director of Tarleton University System Center-Central Texas in Killeen (now Texas A&M University-Central Texas) before he retired in 2001. The Texas A&M University System recognized his leadership that year by confirming him as Dean Emeritus, College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Biological Sciences.
He spearheaded efforts to establish associate and baccalaureate degree programs in nursing and the medical laboratory sciences program in the core of downtown Fort Worth’s Medical District, and he advocated for constructing and helped design Tarleton’s science building, which now bears his name.
In addition to teaching in Hico, Marilynn’s career included a stint at Stephenville High School. A Tarleton Distinguished Tarleton Alumna (2015), she served as an education specialist with the Texas Education Agency and as an elementary school and high school principal in the Strawn and Goldthwaite independent school districts.
She served as President of the Texas Vocational Homemaking Teachers Association and Texas Vocational Teachers Association, and Vice President of the Region IV American Vocational Association, which named her Outstanding Classroom Teacher of the Year.
The Johansons continue their association with Tarleton, attending and volunteering at athletic and academic events. Both received the All-Purple Award, recognizing those who go above and beyond in supporting Tarleton athletics. Lamar has been on the Texan Club board of directors since its inception in 1994 and continues to chair the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.
The couple received Tarleton’s 2020 Legacy Award for Leadership and honorary doctorates of humane letters in 2021.A founding member of The Texas A&M University System, Tarleton is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of more than 15,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, A&M RELLIS at Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity, and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.