Prestigious Lillis Scholarship Awarded to Two Incoming Freshmen

August 21, 2013

TACOMA, Wash. – Christian Johnson, of Los Angeles, and Kathryn Stutz, of San Jose, Calif., have been named University of Puget Sound Lillis Scholars, honoring them with the college’s most prestigious award for students who show extraordinary promise in academics and scholarship.

Lillis Scholars are recognized for their academic excellence, passionate interest in ideas, intellectual independence, and promise of distinction throughout their undergraduate years and beyond. The annual awards are funded by a generous gift from Gwendolyn H. Lillis P’05 and Charles M. Lillis P’05, made through The Lillis Foundation to Puget Sound’s $125 million One [of a Kind] comprehensive campaign.

Students seeking to attend Puget Sound as freshmen have the opportunity during the regular application process each year to apply to become Lillis Scholars. Johnson and Stutz will become part of a cohort of 12 Lillis Scholars named since the program began in 2007. The Lillis Scholarship covers the cost of tuition, room, and board for up to four years of undergraduate education at University of Puget Sound.

Christian “Chili” Johnson (Los Angeles)

Chili Johnson attended Vistamar School where he was named a National Hispanic Scholar. A self-taught programmer, he says “Why not?” has been the guiding query in his many pursuits. He taught himself about circuits and microcontrollers, and led the robotics and student technology clubs. He learned photography and video production on his own, and headed the school clubs devoted to these interests.      

Johnson developed a computer game called “Jose’s Taco Bar,” created a Tic-Tac-Toe artificial intelligence player, and produced a Roaring Twenties video that is still aired for school visitors. He loves to teach others and takes time to instruct middle school students about robotics. Johnson, who is fluent in Mandarin, is active in community service at home and volunteered for service work in Nicaragua and Mississippi. His math teacher notes that “because he frequently asks questions, others are not intimidated by his brilliance and ask questions as well.” He received a perfect score on each Advanced Placement exam that he took.

Johnson’s high school counselor calls him the “Willie Mays of our senior class—like the great baseball legend, Chili does it all with effortless grace.” Johnson aims to study computer science and math at Puget Sound, as well as pursue artistic endeavors.

Kathryn Stutz (San Jose, Calif.)

Kathryn Stutz, an AP Scholar with Distinction, attended Pioneer High School. She was an attorney on her school’s Mock Trial team and she maintains a 4.0 GPA. She has had a kaleidoscope of pursuits, including studying macroinvertebrates in local watery environments as a member of the Environmental Research Club at her school.

Stutz has learned Mayan, French, Greek, and Quenya (a fictional language invented by author J.R.R. Tolkien). She completed an internship with an archaeological team from Cornell University by working at Halai, an ancient dig in Greece, where she cataloged Neolithic pottery fragments. She also created diagrams of the site that will be used for publication.

One of Stutz’s English teachers says “Kathryn’s unrivaled string of A-pluses was not enough to contain her intellectual energy, so she studied pictographs”—ideas expressed through pictures. He recalls her “special delight at an activity where I recited a poem orally and asked students to take down the words by ear, arranging them on their own into lines and stanzas. For Kathryn, the labor with syntax and punctuation was playtime, ice cream. This distinguishes Kathryn, actually: the search for and discovery of fun in everything she learns.” Stutz was on the school swim team and active in her church. She hopes to study sociology and art at Puget Sound.

About the Lillis Scholar Program

The Lillis Scholar Program was established through a generous gift made by The Lillis Foundation of Castle Rock, Colo., to recognize academic excellence and encourage intellectual independence. Gwen Lillis is chair of The Lillis Foundation, a University of Puget Sound trustee, and trustee of the University of Oregon Foundation. Charles Lillis is former chair and chief executive of MediaOne Group and a founding partner of LoneTree Capital Management. The Lillises are the parents of Puget Sound alumna Jessica Baker Isaacs ’05. Each year two Lillis Scholars are selected from the incoming freshman class.

For information about eligibility for the Lillis Scholar program, contact the Office of Admission at 253.879.3211 or visit

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