Kathy Johanson: An Innovator, Educator and Philanthropist

6275302553_8a1ea5f131_bThis year, City University of Seattle is thrilled to give one of its Innovations Awards to Dr. Kathy Johanson of O Wines. We will be presenting this award to Kathy at our Annual Innovations Gala on October 21, 2011 and have the distinguished honor of hearing a few words from her. Our Master’s degree students have the distinct pleasure of having Kathy teach them in their project management courses. We are thrilled to present Kathy with this award and are humbled to have her be a part of our teaching faculty.

When we talked with Kathy about her passion around education, philanthropy, wine and connecting all three, here is what we found out:

“My passion for education was always there, but when I was working with Tech-REACH I realized how important it was to mentor young women, and how important the mentorship piece was period.”

While working at The Boeing Company as the Manager for the Program, Planning, and Control Engineering Scheduling group in Commercial Airplanes, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reached out to Kathy and asked if she would participate in Tech-REACH. Like any college or life-long athlete*, which is how Kathy describes herself, she dove headfirst into the challenge! She was thrilled to get girls and teens excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Kathy has participated in this program for the past 10 years and has successfully established her own mentoring templates for all ages. She takes great pride in mentoring both children and adults.

“Originally, Stacy (Lill) and I thought we wanted the proceeds to go to a cause dedicated to helping abused women. When doing a little research I found that 82% of abused women have less than a high school diploma. I called Stacy and said, ‘we need to help abused women by helping them become better educated.’ Stacy agreed and we were off! O Wines became about empowering abused women by offering them an education.”

Halloween 2006 was the night O Wines was conceptualized. Kathy and her friend of over 20 years Stacy Lill, were sharing ideas over a glass of wine. These ideas turned into bigger discussions, which led to a business plan and much more than a glass of wine.

O Wines is dedicated to stopping the cycle of abused women who were not afforded the privilege of a higher education due to their economic circumstance. Whenever a bottle of wine is purchased, a portion of the proceeds is donated to supporting the “Opportunity for Success Scholarship”, which is administered by the College Success Foundation.

The scholarship is for $5,000 per year for four years and is matched by Washington state. To be eligible, girls must be between the ages of 11 to 18, have a mentor, and are selected by the College Success Foundation. Stacy and Kathy do not select the recipient. While the student is in college, she must maintain a 2.75 grade point and can study anything that she would like to study. It is important to note that the scholarship recipient(s) are not required to major or focus on any particular areas of study. Access to higher education was more important than subject matter for both Kathy and Stacy.

The long-term vision of O Wines is to “establish a local Academy for motivated young girls otherwise unable to realize their dream of a higher education.”

The mission of CityU: “To change lives for good by offering high quality and relevant lifelong education to anyone with the desire to learn.”

Our Innovations Gala is an event designed to celebrate CityU’s long standing mission and commitment to make access and innovation in education achievable to anyone with a desire to learn. Without people like Kathy and her organization, many would not be given the opportunity to seek a higher level of education. It is our pleasure to honor her as an innovator and applaud her for her efforts of making education more accessible to those who aspire to change their lives and have a desire to learn.

*Kathy was a 4-year letterman on the University of Washington tennis team from 1980-84 and won the National qualifying tournament her freshman year, giving her the only National tournament berth from the University of Washington and thus the honor of All-American.

Published September 22, 2011



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