Fairleigh Dickinson University Alumnus Establishing Scholarship in Mentor’s Name

Two men in formal wear pose for a photo on the lawn.
Chris Johnson, BS’93 (Flor), left, is funding a scholarship in honor of his mentor David Knee, BA’88 (Flor). (Photo: Elena Mitchell Photography)

By Anne Sherber

At a party celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hollister Construction Services, owner Christopher Johnson, BS’93 (Flor), and his wife, Jennifer, BA’00 (Flor), announced their intention to fund a scholarship named for David Knee, BA’88 (Flor), Johnson’s mentor, close friend and former business associate.

It’s almost hard to believe that Johnson and Knee didn’t know one another before Karen Lewis, executive director of One University Many Dreams, introduced them in 2002.

Both men pledged Zeta Beta Tau. Both transferred into FDU. They had friends in common. But it took Lewis playing networker to sow the seeds for Hollister, and perhaps more importantly, an abiding friendship.

“I was in a good spot in my real-estate career,” Knee recalls. “I met with Chris and thought he was dynamic, funny.”

Knee quickly became Johnson’s de facto mentor. In 2004, they launched Hollister.

Though Johnson eventually bought Knee and his partners out, Johnson credits Knee with providing him with the tools, contacts, connections and confidence to grow Hollister.

Knee is now vice chairman, northeast industrial region, at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. Recently, he joined FDU’s Board of Trustees.

Though Johnson and Knee are no longer connected professionally, they remain deeply so through their friendship and loyalty to FDU.

Knee says that he is very moved by the Johnsons’ generosity in establishing the scholarship. “Chris is passionate about FDU, as am I,” said Knee. “It brought us together, and it has kept us together.”

Although they have not yet determined the parameters of the David E. Knee Endowed Scholarship, the affection between the men is apparent in their banter. Johnson jokes that Knee’s golf game has “never improved, so maybe it should be a golf scholarship.”

Johnson says that ultimately they both want to assist students “involved in student life who are entrepreneurial.” He also says the scholarship will assist students who have a financial need. “Students should have the same opportunities we had, no matter their circumstances.”

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of FDU Magazine.

Selected features from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s biannual, signature publication.