Philanthropist Betty Wold Johnson leaves $10 million to Watershed Institute

Betty Wold Johnson died in May of 2020 at the age of 99.

The Watershed Institute has received $10 million from the estate of Betty Wold Johnson, a longtime supporter who died in May of 2020 at the age of 99. The gift, the largest in the organization’s 72-year history, was made to establish an endowment fund providing long-term financial support to the Watershed Institute.

Jim Waltman, the executive director of the Watershed Institute, said the fund will support excellence and leadership in land conservation and stewardship, environmental education, watershed science, and the maintenance of the Watershed’s facilities. Johnson was a long-time supporter of the Watershed who served on the nonprofit’s advisory board for more than 20 years.

“Mrs. Johnson was an extraordinary philanthropist whose generosity created a lasting legacy of environmental leadership and exceptional teaching spaces at the Watershed Institute and across our region,” Waltman said. “She possessed an abiding community spirit and boundless enthusiasm for our work and the other institutions that she championed.”

Previously, Johnson provided the lead capital gift in the campaign that created the Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education, the nonprofit’s LEED-Platinum headquarters on its 950-acre nature reserve near Pennington. The new endowment will help ensure that the property is maintained and enhanced to ensure that it serves as a model for environmental stewardship.

The Watershed Institute was established in 1949 as the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association to address concerns about the erosion of farm fields that was adding large amounts of sediment to area streams and the loss of open space to development. Over the decades, the nonprofit has grown to employ teams of scientists, educators, advocates, and land stewards who work in the Millstone and Delaware River watersheds and also provide leadership on statewide issues of water science and policy.

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