To this day, Patsy Eisler, the wife of Ferris State University President David Eisler, counts her blessings for being adopted at the age of eight months by a caring South Haven couple. Their love and support forever changed her life.
To memorialize her adoptive parents, the late Norris and Irene Johnson of South Haven, the Eislers have established a $350,000 scholarship endowment in their honor. This support will help orphans and foster care youth have the opportunity of a Ferris education and earn their Ferris degree.
The Eislers’ gift will be matched by The Ferris Foundation, through the Ferris Futures Scholarship Challenge, creating $700,000 in scholarship support for the University’s growing former foster care youth population.
“At Ferris commencements I have heard the heart-warming stories of the success of our foster youth students and the obstacles they have overcome to earn their degree,” Patsy said. “The difference Ferris makes in these young lives is profound.”
“Because Patsy was adopted, she holds foster care youth near and dear to her heart,” David said.
“When discussing our gift, scholarship support for Ferris’ foster care youth was an especially meaningful way to honor Patsy’s parents. We both have been moved to tears by our foster youth’s personal stories of adversity. Patsy and I are deeply passionate about doing everything we can to give these students the hope and support to succeed and to make them feel welcome at Ferris, which, for most, is their only home.”
The Eislers’ gift will establish the Norris and Irene Johnson Scholarship Endowment providing financial assistance toward the cost of attendance to full-time, former foster care youth, who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree. These students will be known as the Johnson Scholars, and will utilize a host of academic, professional and life skills support services available through the University’s Ferris Youth Initiative (FYI) program, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.
Johnson Scholarship awards will be up to $5,000 per year toward the cost of attendance at Ferris.
“My parents would be very pleased that we are supporting young people who have a similar background to mine,” Patsy said.
“My father and mother were incredible role models. They were married for 57 years and owned and operated J.W. Johnson and Son, in South Haven, before they retired in 1974. My father was the founding commodore of the South Haven Yacht Club, president of the South Haven Country Club and an alderman for the city of South Haven. My mother was an on-air radio fashion consultant for Johnson’s. It was at my father’s urging that I attend the University of Michigan, his alma mater, where I met Dave.”
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, only half of youth raised in foster care end up finishing high school and less than three percent graduate from a four-year college.
“A gift such as this will be of tremendous benefit to the students in the Ferris Youth Initiative. It will provide them with the opportunity to see college as something that is ‘within their reach,’” said Janette Ward, independent living coordinator—campus coach for the Ferris Youth Initiative. “Many students who have experienced foster care have limited or no financial resources which can create the potential for a large amount of student debt, from having to take out loans to pay for college.”
The Eislers invite others to join them in helping support foster youth at Ferris State University.