John & Susie King

John King '68 & Susie King

John King ‘68 and his wife Susie understand the transformational effect that the good work made possible by their philanthropy can have on the lives of young people and others in need -- and they want to do all they can to support such critically important endeavors.

That’s why they have given so generously of their time and financial resources to Otterbein and charitable causes in the Washington, D.C., area where they have lived for more than 30 years.

At Otterbein alone, the Kings made leadership gifts for the renovation and expansion of the Science Center, construction of the Clements Recreation Center, and establishment of the Campus Wireless Project. In addition, John served on the University’s Board of Trustees for 18 years, providing leadership and vision for his alma mater’s fundraising efforts as chairman of the Advancement Committee.

In recognition of all they do for Otterbein, the Kings are the new recipients of the Mary B. Thomas Award. The award, presented at a kickoff event for the “Where We Stand Matters” campaign in downtown Columbus on Oct. 24, is in recognition of philanthropic leadership, service and commitment to advancing Otterbein’s mission.

The award is named of honor of the late Mary Burnham Thomas ’28, a long-time benefactor of the University and former Otterbein trustee. Previous recipients are Bill and Helen LeMay, Vernon L. Pack, the Vida S. Clements Foundation, Ernest G. and Neva Fritsche, and Edwin and Marilou Roush.

“Those are legendary names at Otterbein,” John says, “and we are humbled to be included among them.”

John made a name for himself at the senior level of the business world during an accomplished career with computer service firms Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Perot Systems, both founded by American business legend H. Ross Perot.

After serving as a Navy officer during the Vietnam War, John joined EDS in 1972 and rapidly rose through the ranks during his 16 years with the company. Perot sold his controlling interest in EDS to General Motors Corp., in 1984, and in 1988 asked John to serve as one of eight co-founders of his new company, Perot Systems.

John was vice president and general manager of strategic alliances at Perot Systems when he retired in 2010. He now devotes much of his time to serving the not-for-profit organizations that he and Susie support. 

While John was making his mark in the corporate world, Susie concentrated on the care of the couple’s three children, John Jr., Kathryn and James. John Jr. was born with special needs and now, as an adult, lives independently in housing operated by the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH), a Rockville, Md.-based nonprofit organization that benefits from the Kings’ goodwill and vision. For example, John currently serves as chairman of JFGH’s independent endowment organization.

“With all philanthropy,” John says, “it goes back to you identifying with the organization. Unless something resonates with you, you are not going to become involved. So we do a lot of fundraising and ‘friend-raising’ for all of our not-for-profits.”

Besides supporting Otterbein and Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, the Kings are active in advancing the work of the Wolf Trap Foundation for Early Learning Through the Arts in Vienna, Va., and Washington Middle School for Girls in Washington, D.C. John is also a board member of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

In addition, John serves as chairman of the board of the Washington area chapter of Year Up. The nonprofit organization provides urban young adults with the skills, experience and support to empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

Susie says the Kings’ motivation for giving back stems from them having been “very blessed and lucky in our lives.” The couple has been married 41 years. 

“Education is essential to breaking the cycle of generational poverty,” says Susie, a Marymount College graduate and former elementary school teacher. “By supporting groups that educate inner-city youth -- be it pre-school children learning to read, middle schoolers getting into a good high school, or young adults with high-level job training – we may be able in a small way to help break the cycle of poverty for these youths.”

John enrolled at Otterbein in part because of his familiarity with the school - his sister, Sally King Clevenger ’64, earned a teaching degree from Otterbein. 

In John’s eyes at that time, Otterbein and Westerville seemed cosmopolitan compared to his hometown of Arlington, Ohio. His high school graduating class totaled 41 students, and the village, like many in rural areas of Ohio, lacked racial and religious diversity.

“At Otterbein, we had people of color and from various religions, foreign exchange students, and people from all over the country,” John remembers. “We learned about the world and the liberal-arts education we received helped us see all sides of humanity. That was very important for my development.”

John is especially proud to talk about Otterbein. He is quick to mention how he values its continued emphasis on the teaching of the liberal arts, its legacy as a college of opportunity for students from all backgrounds, and the school’s founding by the Evangelical United Brethren Church. He grew up attending a United Brethren Church, and that was another reason he was drawn to Otterbein.

“Otterbein has graduated a lot of great folks over the years and remains at a very high level of performance,” he says.

John also says the University’s alumni and friends should give serious consideration to supporting the Where We Stand Matters campaign. The campaign goals of campus renewal, access and affordability for students, and building a model community stem from a strategic plan that John helped develop as a University trustee.

“I’m especially impressed that the campaign looks at things from a balanced standpoint,” he says. “It’s not just bricks and mortar but investing in human resources. This campaign is overdue, and we need to support it.”

Mary B Thomas Award Seal

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Cathy Carson, Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship
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