Barbara Piasecka Johnson
Humanitarian, Art Connoisseur and Collector, Business Investor...
...and a woman of courage.
The motive common to all the seemingly diverse interests of Mrs. Barbara Piasecka Johnson is the desire to give of her fortune and of herself to others. Just as an artist embraces spectators with his or her creation, true philanthropy extends oneself to those in greater need, and successful business dealings encompass and benefit many.
Mrs. Johnson, a historian of art, and her late husband, Mr. J. Seward Johnson, Sr., one of the founders of Johnson & Johnson, gathered an extraordinary art collection renowned worldwide, comprising among others, 19th Century and Old Master paintings and 18th Century French Furniture. During its development, only individual pieces were put on public display. The first ever presentation of a significant portion of the Collection, under the name Opus Sacrum, was staged in Poland, Mrs. Johnson's native land, to coincide with its regaining its independence from communism.
While working on the Collection, Mrs. Johnson also concentrated on broadly-based philanthropic and charitable activities. Through the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation and other organizations, together with her husband, she supported students and professionals whose work would most meaningfully improve the quality of life of others, such as art and music students and performers, writers, and medical researchers. The long list of recipients of millions upon millions of dollars well reflects the fact that a special place in Mrs. Johnson's heart has forever been reserved for those who came from her native Poland. By bringing them to premier American institutions, she assisted organizations in her adopted homeland, at the same time allowing the finest sons and daughters of Poland, frequently persecuted by the communist regime, to partake of the best that Western democracies have to offer.
With the inception of Solidarity and its subsequent destruction, Mrs. Johnson's attention became closely focused on political and human rights issues. The oppressed Nation found in her a most powerful and dedicated financial and moral backer. Through her deep personal involvement and her wise vision, Mrs. Johnson both offered and inspired large-scale foreign aid to the people of Poland in selfless support of their unyielding struggle for full sovereignty. Once it was achieved, in keeping with her commitment to bring immediate help where the need was greatest, Mrs. Johnson became one of the foremost private foreign investors in the emerging free market economy in Poland, at the same time concentrating on such vital issues as improvement of the health care system, and establishing homes for orphans, for unwed mothers, for the disabled, and for the terminally ill.
In recognition of her truly outstanding and multi-faceted contributions to the cause of bettering the fate of fellow human beings, Mrs. Johnson has received many international awards and honors. She considers, however, her greatest reward to be the smiling face of a child whose life she saved by supporting medical research, or the comfort of an elderly man who thanks to her generosity can end his days in dignity. These faces are those that testify most fully to the living legacy of Barbara Piasecka Johnson.
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