AHC Scholarship Event a Johnson Family Giving Tradition

Donations are from the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation.

Johnson Family DonationsMAY 22, 2103 -- Though Blaine Johnson attended Allan Hancock College only briefly on his road to racing history, his legacy lives on in the college’s automotive technology program through the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation.

“The Johnson family is the best in the world at what they do, and they live right here in Santa Maria.  To have them support our program and our students, well, the message to the students is that anything is possible,” said Patrick McGuire, automotive technology instructor.

“To have that benchmark, that point of measurement for them to put themselves against is quite a powerful teaching tool,” McGuire added.

A drag racing legend, Johnson won a record 26 titles while competing in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).  His life and career were cut short when he died in a racetrack accident in Indianapolis in 1996.  His family established the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation that same year.

Since then, the foundation has purchased $364,000 in top-of-the-line machinery for the college’s automotive technology program and provided $63,500 in scholarships to students. Recently, the foundation donated $30,000 to help fund a machine technology instructor position at Hancock.

“The big thing about the Johnsons is that the students know that somebody as well respected as they are supports what they’re trying to do here,” McGuire said.

The Johnson family name is well known in the world of racing.  Blaine and his brother Alan Johnson raced as a team and Alan has continued the family tradition.  He is the owner of Alan Johnson Performance Engineering and Alan Johnson Racing, both based in Santa Maria, and the manager of the Al-Anabi Racing Team, a NHRA Top Fuel team.

Alan, along with his mother Agnes, his father Everett, and sister, Pam, manage the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation, which hosts a golf tournament at the Santa Maria Country Club each fall.  Funds raised at the tournament go to Hancock automotive programs and students.  The Blaine Johnson scholarship will be awarded again this year at the 44th annual Allan Hancock College Scholarship Awards Banquet, Thursday, May 23.  More than 200 students will receive scholarship awards totaling more than $307,000.  The Blaine Johnson Memorial Scholarships totaling $4,500 will be among them.

“Whatever they do, the Johnsons set the bar high,” said Jeff Cotter, executive director, Allan Hancock College Foundation. “Their sustained generosity through their foundation is a great example.  They know how to be the best and they understand how a scholarship can make the difference in the life of a student.  By helping to prepare students for the workforce, they are helping ensure the future of our community.”

According to Alan, local support is crucial to the success of the foundation’s annual golf tournament.

“Probably one of the most satisfying things about the golf tournament is the people of the community getting together, supporting a good cause and honoring my brother,” Alan said.

Alan is straightforward in terms of his decision to donate the funds to Allan Hancock College, pointing out the importance of vocational training to the community and local businesses.  He believes in hiring the best, Alan said, and supports talented Hancock students. 

“We have a kid working here right now that came through Hancock and so far he’s been wonderful,” Alan said.

That student, Ethan Vierra, was studying automotive technology before being introduced to machine technology by instructor Bob Mabry.  He is currently operating a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machine at Alan Johnson Performance Engineering.

“Hancock has one of the best-equipped auto shops I’ve ever visited, but after I took the machine tech course it clicked in my head that this is what I’m good at,” Vierra said.

World-class machinery helps him produce world-class students, and it’s extremely important to the continued health of the program, according to McGuire.  With the support of the Johnson family, the program is able to purchase a new machine each year, spending approximately $50,000 on each piece.

Funds have paid for a cylinder block power hone, a cylinder boring bar and recently a crankshaft grinder, in addition to many more pieces.  The crankshaft grinder was the program’s most recent purchase and cost $65,000.  The previous model was so old, McGuire said, that he learned how to grind a crankshaft on it in 1986. In the photo above, student Federico Solorio works on the cylinder block power hone with the help of instructor Patrick McGuire.

“That machine is the capstone of the shop,” McGuire said.  “If you have advanced students who are going places, you put them on it because if you can grind a crankshaft you can do anything.”

Alan said that he lets the instructors at Hancock tell him what piece of machinery they need next and then he helps them procure it, sometimes using his connections and expertise to find just the right piece.

“We try to get them the absolute latest and greatest version of that machinery,” he said.

With the best at their disposal, automotive technology students have no excuse not to succeed, and it shows, McGuire said.  The students also look up to the Johnsons, he said, and can’t wait to volunteer at the golf tournament every year.

That tournament brings the NHRA to Santa Maria and to have those men and women spend money that will eventually be used to benefit the program is an honor to both the students and instructors, McGuire said.

“I always point out that this golf tournament is attended by the whole world of the NHRA,” McGuire said. “This money raised, some of that is money that racers have literally risked their lives to earn and if that doesn’t motivate our students to excel then nothing will.”

The 44th annual scholarship awards banquet will be held in the Joe White Memorial Gymnasium. The Johnsons will be in attendance, as they are every year, to watch recipients receive their scholarships.

“The students always seem excited about it and they’re always appreciative,” said Agnes Johnson. “It’s our pleasure to attend.”

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Last Modified Jan 17, 2014