Morven Mourns The Passing Of Betty Wold Johnson

Beloved local philanthropist was key figure in Morven's restoration,
inception as a Museum and Education Center
By: Morven Museum & Garden
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Betty Wold Johnson, second from right
Betty Wold Johnson, second from right
PRINCETON, N.J. - May 19, 2020 - PRLog -- "Betty enjoyed Morven," remarked Georgia Schley, Morven Museum & Garden's first Board President when asked recently about the impact Betty Wold Johnson had in the genesis of what is now Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton, New Jersey. "In the early years, Betty was having a good time working with the State, Treasurer, Governors. She always loved the gardens and what they mean to Morven's history and she was thrilled with the new building."

In the 1980's, there was much discussion on "what should be done with Morven," an historic building originally built by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton, and inhabited for many generations by his family. After 170 years of Stocktons residing at Morven, Robert Wood Johnson, Jr., his second wife, Maggi, and their daughter, Sheila, called it home from 1928 to 1944. As sisters-in-law, Sheila and Betty both became ardent supporters of Morven.


According to Mrs. Schley, Betty was invited to a meeting "of four or five people interested in Morven.  We met in the very rundown sunroom - red carpet, dim lights, with the entire exterior requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair. We had learned that if we could restore the exterior, Morven could potentially become eligible for state funding and become a true museum."

"The next morning, I called her home to speak with her and was told that 'Mrs. Johnson has gone to New York.'  I later found out that she had driven into New York to speak with the Johnson Foundation to request $400,000 for a challenge grant for Morven. We raised the other $400,000 but it was her money that got the whole thing going."

Once Morven's exterior was refurbished, Governor Christie Todd Whitman was petitioned to dedicate state funding for the interior restoration.  $2 million of state funding was provided and Betty found herself involved in attending hearings and other meetings to develop the unique partnership between the private sector and the state.  Mrs. Schley said details of this type of partnership were crafted by attorney Steve West and remain a model for private investors in public institutions today.

Subsequently and largely through Mrs. Johnson's support, Morven's 19th century Carriage House restoration, its 20th century Pool House restoration (originally built during the Johnson family's residence at Morven), and 21st century Stockton Education Center building were all brought to fruition.


At the May 13, 2020 meeting of Morven's Board of Trustees, it was unanimously approved to make Betty Wold Johnson a Trustee in Memoriam of Historic Morven, Inc. Current chair of Morven's Board, Robert N. Wilson said, "Betty's influence on Morven cannot be overstated. Without her enthusiasm, her forward thinking about Morven, not just 20 years in the future, but 200 years from now, we would not be where we are today. As a friend, I will miss her calls. She always began with 'Honey, how is our project going?' She cared deeply about the affairs of Morven."

"In talking with Betty, we often discussed the role of civics in our society and how Morven was a perfect venue for such conversations with so many examples of leadership having walked its floors. I was one of many she gave a copy of the Constitution to with her favorite amendment marked," Morven's Executive Director Jill Barry shared recently, "and it seems a fitting tribute to host a Civics program in her memory when we are able to gather again."

Morven Museum & Garden is located at 55 Stockton Street, Princeton, NJ.  Full details about Morven's history may be found at

For more than 200 years Morven has played a role in the history of New Jersey and the nation. Originally part of a 5,500-acre tract purchased from William Penn in 1701 by the Stockton family, it is  the home of Richard Stockton, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. As well as serving as a Stockton homestead for several generations into the 20th century, Morven was home to the families of Robert Wood Johnson Jr., and was the first New Jersey Governors' Mansion and home to five New Jersey governors.

Photo Caption #1
Mrs. Betty Wold Johnson at Morven's Stockton Education Center ribbon cutting, May 3, 2018, second from right with Morven Board Secretary Liza Morehouse, far right, Sky Morehouse, far left, and Morven Trustee and pool house restoration architect Ronica Bregenzer second from left. Photo Credit: Debra Lampert-Rudman

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Debra Lampert-Rudman
Curator of Education & Public Programs

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Tags:Betty Wold Johnson, Johnson Johnson, Morven Museum & Garden, Princeton Nj, Governor Christie Todd Whitman, Governor, Museum, New Jersey history
Industry:Arts, Non-profit, Architecture
Location:Princeton - New Jersey - United States
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Page Updated Last on: May 19, 2020

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