Billionaire businessman Charles B. Johnson has lived an enchanted life. In 1957, at the age of 24, he became CEO of investment firm Franklin Resources. As a money manager, Johnson developed a reputation for being one of the shrewdest brains in the business. During his 56-year tenure at Franklin Resources, the firm's assets under management rose from $2.5 million in 1957 to more than $800 billion by the time he retired. Johnson is also credited for taking the company public in 1971. After handing the company over to his son Gregory, Johnson turned his attention to professional sports. In 2012, he became the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, making him one of the richest people in Major League Baseball. Prior to his corporate career, Johnson served in Germany as a lieutenant in the United States Army. Today, the business mogul is one of the largest donors to Republican campaigns, donating $4.58 million to the Party from 2017 through 2018. As of 2021, Johnson’s net worth is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Much of Johnson's ability to command a board meeting was formed during his days as a student at Yale University. He arrived in New Haven in 1950, a big, strong, smart, and ambitious kid. Johnson was an athlete in college, playing offensive guard for Yale’s Bulldogs football team. His time at Yale gave glimpses of his future as an overachiever. Even with his school and football obligations, Johnson still managed to work as a waiter in the dining hall—The Yale Club of Montclair had awarded him a scholarship, but it required him to keep a job while in school. In addition, Johnson was also an ROTC cadet, which led to his commission in Germany. In 1954, he graduated from Yale with a bachelor's degree.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

A noted philanthropist, Johnson's biggest donations have always been to his alma mater. Indeed, the billionaire is one of Yale's largest benefactors, having given considerable sums to athletic and student facilities at the University. Johnson’s past gifts to Yale have helped fund the renovation of the Yale Bowl; the construction of Johnson Field, a field hockey venue; the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy; and the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, which acquired the papers of Henry Kissinger in 2011. Notably, his $250 million gift to the University in 2013 is still considered one of the largest in school history. “Mr. Johnson is somebody who loves Yale," said Yale President Peter Salovey in 2013, "and felt the experience changed his life, and knows that we’re now at the point where 30,000 applicants are hoping to have a chance for that kind of an experience, too."