What would cause three generations of the same family to invest time, money and support for a community college? This is the question posed to Starr Johnson, of Starr Johnson Investments, LLC, and son John Johnson recently. Starr explained that her dad, Saul Robinson, actually started his career in education, teaching 5th grade at Stanley Elementary, soon after he graduated from University of Virginia. Saul was an entrepreneurial man and accomplished many things in his career. He was co-owner of Robinson-Jones Insurance Agency in Stanley, and he opened Robinson Realty and Insurance in Luray. After the sale of his insurance agency, he became general manager of LUMAD (Luray Management and Distribution Company), a subsidiary of Luray Caverns. In the late 1980’s, he purchased Skyline Caverns. He retired as president of Skyline Group in 2003.
One of his accomplishments that both daughter and grandson are proud of to this day is his legacy of serving for 17 years on the Board of Directors for Lord Fairfax Community College, one of the longest serving board members in the Virginia Community College System. Saul Robinson believed in LFCC, and he brought his business leadership knowledge to his service on the College Board.
In 1997, Starr pondered the best possible Father’s Day gift she could give her dad. She decided to create the Saul J. Robinson Scholarship. Her dad delighted in getting to know the students who benefitted from his scholarship. In 1998, he was given an honorary degree from LFCC, which he also treasured. According to his daughter, he was a major believer in the community college and what it stands for.
“When you invest in others, you never know when it will come back to benefit you,” Starr said. At one point, she got a call that her mother had broken her hip. As the ambulance transported Nellie Robinson to the local emergency room, a male nurse attending her recognized the name of the family and told them he had been a recipient of the Saul Robinson Scholarship.
Starr said, “We received excellent care and attention from this young man as he expressed appreciation for the scholarship support. He said it had been a godsend for him financially.”
When her mother passed away in 2009, Starr knew what she wanted to do to honor her mother. Mrs. Robinson and her seven sisters were the largest immediate family to graduate from James Madison College (now known as JMU) during the 1920’s-1940. Mrs. Robinson was the youngest graduate at that time, receiving a bachelor’s degree at the age of 18. She used her education to become a teacher. To honor her mother’s education legacy, Starr started the Nellie Comer Robinson Scholarship fund at LFCC, and has maintained both family scholarships to this day.
Starr’s sons, Scott and John both continued the family connection to LFCC. John began taking classes at LFCC in Middletown while he was still a senior in high school, as classes in Page were not an option at that time. He particularly expressed appreciation to Gail Price, as well as other LFCC professors. “She was excited about teaching things,” John said. “She made me feel like my time in the classroom was well-spent.” The quality of teaching I received from all my professors was excellent and I enjoyed my classes.”
John also liked the comradery at LFCC, and to this day has remained friends with several LFCC classmates. After graduating from High School, John transferred to Virginia Tech where he majored in Economics. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken as much of my degree from LFCC as I could have,” John said. His younger brother, Scott, also attended Lord Fairfax Community College before transferring to James Madison University.
Three generations of connection and commitment to LFCC is an impressive record. When asked what she gets out of donating to LFCC through the scholarship program, Starr did not even have to think about it. “Meeting my student scholarship winners, and knowing the investment I am making in my community,” Starr said. She feels that both carrying on the family tradition and making this community a better place are very satisfying.