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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

UNCP to name its football stadium for Grace P. Johnson

When the Braves take the gridiron in 2008, the Grace P. Johnson Stadium will be their home at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Robert (left) and Marvin Johnson stand in front of the family’s first turkey hatchery.

Robert (left) and Marvin Johnson stand in front of the family’s first turkey hatchery.

Black Line

The stadium will be named to honor the late wife of E. Marvin Johnson of Rose Hill, N.C. A dedication ceremony will be announced at a future date.

Grace Stadium became a reality as a result of the largest gift in the history of UNCP athletics to the ongoing First and Ten Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence.

“Everybody loved Grace,” Johnson said of his wife, who died February 20, 1996. “When we were married on New Year’s Eve in 1949, I borrowed a car from my sister for our honeymoon. We lived in a tenant house.”

Johnson found success in agribusiness, and Grace raised their four children, said her son Robert Johnson.

“My mother ran the home while my father ran the business,” Robert Johnson said. “My mother was very active in her church and community.”

Grace Johnson loved to travel, and she also loved athletics, Robert Johnson said.

“She was a sports fan who loved attending football and basketball games and golf tournaments,” Robert Johnson said. “Football is a great game and important to our family.”

The Johnson family has generously supported their church and several schools. The Fellowship Hall at Rose Hill United Methodist Church bears Grace P. Johnson’s name. The Mary Susan Cowan Johnson Gymnasium at Harrell’s Christian Academy is named for Marvin Johnson’s mother. The Edgar Marvin Johnson Hall on the Hoke County campus of Sandhills Community College was dedicated in 2007.

“College is good for young people,” Marvin Johnson said. “It gets them away from home and ready for work.”

As a regional University, UNCP has played a role in the family businesses.

“Many of our employees are UNCP graduates,” Robert Johnson said.

Grace Powell Johnson was born on August 26, 1929. She and Marvin Johnson had four children: Edgar Johnson, who preceded her in death, Diane Beasley, Robert Johnson, and Mary Anna Johnson. They have 14 grandchildren, two of whom are deceased, and 5 great-grandchildren. 

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors hailed the news as a “great gift from a great family.”

“We will place the name of Grace P. Johnson on our stadium with great pride,” Chancellor Meadors said. “This gift lifts up our new football program and our University.

“The Johnson name will have a permanent place at our University,” he continued. “We greatly appreciate their generosity and support of our University and many other good causes in this region.”

The stadium, which seats more than 4,000, is located in the Irwin Belk Athletic Complex and is home to the new UNCP football program. The Braves won four games in their first campaign including homecoming the first football game on campus in 56 years.

UNCP football kicks-off in September against Davidson College.

For information about this program or the First and Ten Campaign, please contact UNCP’s Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email advancement@uncp.edu.

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