St. John Family Provides Another $1 Million Estate Gift to Michigan Tech
By Marcia Goodrich | Published
One of Michigan Technological University’s most generous benefactors and his wife, Franklin and Lorraine St. John, have recently established a $1 million charitable trust to support the Generations of Discovery Campaign. The primary goal of the campaign is to build the University’s endowment, particularly scholarships and faculty chairs.
St. John earned a BS in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1960. Since then, he has received numerous honors from his alma mater, including an Honorary Doctorate of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and the Board of Trustees Silver Medal. Additionally, he has been inducted into what is now the Academy of Materials Science and Engineering.
More than 20 years ago, St. John became the first person in Tech’s history to set up a $1 million bequest to establish an endowed chair, the Franklin St. John Chair in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. He has made generous outright gifts to the endowment and plans to complete funding the chair through his estate.
His latest gift, the Franklin M. and Lorraine E. St. John Charitable Remainder Unitrust, will be applied to his three existing endowments, which St. John established through a series of outright and estate gifts. They include the endowed chair and two scholarships, the Franklin St. John Endowed Scholarship and the Louis St. John Endowed Scholarship, which was established in his father’s memory.
In particular, those scholarships will be directed toward students from his native Baraga County, a region that endures some of the state’s worst unemployment. St. John, born and raised in L’Anse, had a spartan upbringing with his big family in a small house, which boasted a cold-water tap and an outhouse. He was the first in his family to attend college, and for that he credits Michigan Tech.
“There was no education in the family,” he said. His father finished the eighth grade, his mother made it through grade 5. “If I hadn’t been close to an engineering college, I don’t know what I would have become.”
By the age of 12, he had set his sights on attending what was then the Michigan College of Mining and Technology. He became the first person in his family to graduate from high school and did so well he earned a full scholarship. He still had to travel back and forth from his home in L’Anse in all weather, however. That commute, plus a grinding academic load, forced him to turn down legendary coach Verdie Cox’s plea to play basketball. “I could not do a sport and school and travel,” said St. John.
His Tech education gave him the tools to leave behind the poverty of his childhood. While working at Pratt and Whitney and Avco Lycoming, he earned an MBA and an MS in Industrial Engineering and in 1976 co-founded the successful company Jensen Industries, which manufacture dental alloys. There, he discovered his passion for developing and launching new products. And he also met the woman who would become his wife, and she ignited his interest in natural healthcare and Chinese medicine.
Meanwhile, the couple’s travels led them to Asia, where St. John lectured on American business practices and developed new professional partnerships. (He prepared for the endeavor by acquiring a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.) This led to a remarkable new business venture that dovetailed with the couple’s shared interest in natural healing. In 1996, Frank and Lorraine St. John launched HerbaSway, a company that makes and markets liquid herbal concentrates, many of them based on traditional Chinese medicine.
Until recently, their flagship product had been HerbaGreen Tea, which offers the antioxidant benefits of 15 cups of green tea in a single serving. Now, however, a new product is beginning to appeal to an entirely different demographic.
In partnership with Warner Brothers Studios, HerbaSway is co-marketing its new hangover remedy, Last Round, with the hit movie “Hangover, Part II.” The winner of HerbaSway’s “Can You Make It to the Last Round?” contest, promoted on Facebook, received an all-expense-paid trip to the film’s debut, and both the movie and the remedy appear together in magazine ads.
“You take Last Round before you go to bed,” said St. John. “You wake up, and you don’t get a hangover.” And it really works, at least according to thousands of five-star reviews on Amazon.com and other online retailers.
“It’s been doing very well,” St. John said. “We’re really excited about this.” It may soon be doing even better: the 7-Eleven convenience store chain will soon be selling the 2.5-ounce bottles.
Despite the looming success of their business, St. John wanted to assure that his wife would always have a secure income. “So we set up the charitable remainder unitrust,” he said. This Franklin M. and Lorraine E. St. John Charitable Remainder Unitrust will provide her with revenue throughout her life and ultimately benefit Michigan Tech and the students of Baraga County.
The St. Johns are members of Michigan Tech’s Hubbell Society and the McNair Society. Frank is a lifetime member of the Michigan Tech Alumni Association.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.