$20 million gift from baby-powder billionaire

$20 million gift from baby-powder billionaire


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2021

Betty Wold Johnson, the Johnson & Jonson matriarch, left $20 million in her will to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in Newark.

Betty died last May, aged 99.

It’s her second gift to the NJPAC. The last one was a mere $11 million.


  • V.Lind says:

    Crikey! They really are determined to keep people from running to NYC for a concert, and have enough dosh to present concerts that will attract New Yorkers to come down to darkest Newark.

    • buxtehude says:

      My one and only trip down there about ten years ago revealed what I can only describe as a safety corridor running through buildings and covered walk-ways, from the train almost to the hall. A stark and worrying situation. Train ride home was downright scary. Perhaps things have improved since . . .

      • Rogerio says:

        And they call it the golden apple.
        Have you been to Newark?

      • NY/NJ says:

        wow buxtehude you need to go back. the PAC is surrounded by new residential development and Military Park, across from the PAC, is delightful.
        The NJPAC was specifically designed with the parking garage having no direct access to the Hall entrance, no “safety corridor,” to force concertgoers to be outside, out in downtown Newark air. There is police presence for performances to manage thru traffic.
        The NJPAC is a jewel that has thrived for nearly 25 years. Go back and be dazzled. I am every time I’m there.

  • Rogerio says:

    The magnitude of the gift is probably simitar to the tax break she got from President-what’s-his-name.

    • Ruggio says:

      Maybe. If she had paid that money in taxes, it would have been strewn about much less efficiently and to no avail at all to NJPAC. The best thing government can do for the arts is stop confiscating private money to redistribute as it sees fit.

      • Rogerio says:

        We who look at America from the outside sure see a lot of strewing going on over there.

        • Y says:

          A lot of the money is strewn in places outside of America. Billions of taxpayer dollars go to foreign countries every year. And it is not used to build opera houses, concert halls, and performing arts centers, I can tell you that.

      • V.Lind says:

        Yeah — might have been strewn into health care or helping the homeless. God forbid the undeserving poor should be helped at the cost of tarting up the NJPAC.

        And, yes, I have been in Newark. Once. Not gonna happen again.

      • Hmus says:

        the money you call ‘private’ was made using public infrastructure – roads, bridges, basic education to supply you with a work froce and customer base, police services, etc etc. . The more money you make, the more of this infrastructure you use, and thus the greater your share in paying for it through taxes should be. There is no such thing as “private” money … unless you are a counterfeiter.

  • drummerman says:

    Can’t anybody here simply say “congratulations” to NJPAC and “thank you” to Mrs. Johnson, or do you have to turn everything into a political diatribe? It’s always great to hear wonderful news about the arts, but especially these days. So let’s all take a deep breath and appreciate the woman’s amazing generosity. Thank you.

  • Nik says:

    Yes, there is baby powder.
    But J&J is also in the final stages of developing a Covid19 vaccine, which is set to be a game changer since it’s the first one that requires only a single dose AND can be stored in a regular fridge for several months.
    Just the sort of thing we need if we want to get the music playing again. I wish them every success.

  • John says:

    Similar to the outcry when Christina Aguilera donated a significant sum to the World Health Organization: It is her money to donate as she pleases. Are there more acute needs like the burgeoning homeless population many of which are children. Affordable housing absolutely but once again it is her money.

  • William Evans says:

    Good for her. She was, btw, mother of Woody Johnson, Ambassador to the UK under Donald Trump. (Having said that, even US$20M isn’t exactly a huge sum to the Johnson clan, worth an estimated US$10.7bn [Forbes, 2020]).

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Betty Wold Johnson married the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, the founder of Johnson & Johnson.
    Robert Wood Johnson’s daughter was Evangeline Johnson, who was the second wife of Leopold Stokowski. Evangeline had two daughters by Stokowski: Gloria and Andrea.
    I happen to have met Gloria, and another daughter of Stokowski’s (by Olga Samaroff), Sonya, some years ago at the premiere screening of the documentary about Olga’s life, “Virtuoso”, on which I worked as one of the recording engineers.
    Gloria and Sonya, then in their late eighties or early nineties, were both delightful ladies: outgoing, friendly, gracious, and sharp as tacks.
    Sonya, BTW, is the spitting image of the conductor.

  • fflambeau says:

    Not much for someone worth so much.

  • JussiB says:

    Fyi, J & J’s Covid vaccine is below 70% effective.