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Jan 18, 2019 2019-01 Access Giving Stories

Paving the way for future business leaders

“That degree opened doors for me.”

Alumnus and wife fund scholarships for Gies Business undergrads

Jeff & Marianne Johanns

Jeff Johanns (ACCY ’77) says his business education at the University of Illinois helped pave the way for his successful career, and now he and his wife Marianne are proud to give back to the College that provided so much for them. The Johanns family has made a generous $150,000 gift to fund the Jeffrey and Marianne Johanns Centennial Scholarship, which supports the education of undergraduate students at Gies College of Business.

“My career opportunities and accomplishments can be traced directly back to the quality education I received at the University of Illinois,” said Johanns. “That degree opened doors for me.”

Johanns harkens back to the outstanding reputation of the accountancy program at the University of Illinois, saying it put a job with the “Big 8” accounting firms within reach.

“Once I started that career,” he said. “I realized how well prepared I was to tackle the professional challenges of public accounting.”

Making the most of your opportunity

Johanns graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy in 1977. It wasn’t long before he started giving back.

“We couldn’t contribute much in the beginning,” Johanns said. “But we did what we could.”

He spent four years as a senior associate and associate accountant for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. before moving into private industry from 1981 to 1989. Eventually, he found a home at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, where he worked in various PwC offices from Texas to Silicon Valley to New York. From 1989 until 2011, he served as assurance manager, assurance partner, national office accounting consultant, and US assurance risk management leader.

Hs is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants. In addition to his numerous professional achievements, he is also the former president of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of the Desert Southwest and the former treasurer of the Board of Directors of the El Paso Rehabilitation Center.

Johanns said his first major opportunity to give back to the College came through PwC and construction of the Business Instructional Facility (BIF) in 2008.

“PwC was a major sponsor, and Marianne and I were proud to contribute financially to BIF,” said Johanns. “As I neared retirement, we discussed ways in which we could continue to contribute to the university, both financially and with our time. Marianne and I wanted to help give others the same opportunity to earn a degree from the top public university in the state of Illinois.”

Investing in the next generation

Over the years, the Johanns have donated more than $250,000 in total to Gies College of Business. Through his giving, Johanns says he wants to incentivize young people to choose Gies Business.

“We want to give them a reason to make the right choice and not have that choice blocked by financial considerations,” said Johanns, a Farmer City, Illinois native. “Picking Illinois will lead to a great future, and that is just too important of a choice to pass up.”

Johanns continues to invest in the next generation of business leaders in many ways. He is a lecturer in the Department of Accounting at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. His course areas include auditing, financial statement analysis, and managerial accounting.

“Teaching students allows me to pass on considerable hard-earned knowledge built through many years in the public accounting profession,” he said. “Perhaps more importantly, it gives me the opportunity to advise and mentor many of the next generation of leaders in the profession.”

To this day, Johanns is proud that he made the choice to study business at the University of Illinois; and because of his generous investment in Gies College of Business, others will have that same opportunity.