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Sheila Johnson

2008 Commencement Address

Sheila C. Johnson

Press Release


Ingrid Saunders Jones and Ernest Green to Receive Honorary Degrees
Erica Hunt to receive National Community Service Award

ATLANTA (May 2, 2008) Business mogul and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson is no stranger to breaking barriers. Johnson, an impassioned philanthropist and global ambassador for CARE, the humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, has gone on to shatter glass ceilings in the worlds of sports, entertainment, business and the arts. On Sunday, May 18, at 5 p.m., at the Cathedral at Chapel Hill in Decatur, Ga., Johnson will inspire more than 500 graduates to achieve their own milestones and change the world when she delivers the commencement address to the Spelman College class of 2008. Johnson will also receive an honorary degree.

Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president global community connections of The Coca-Cola Company and chairperson of The Coca-Cola Foundation, and Ernest G. Green, managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers, will also receive honorary degrees. Erica Hunt, president of The Twenty-First Century Foundation, will receive the National Community Service Award.

“Sheila Johnson is a renaissance woman who will inspire Spelman students to become catalysts for change in a world that still puts limitations on Black women,” said President Beverly Daniel Tatum. “She is a CEO, a sports team president and owner, a philanthropist, a film producer, a humanitarian, a wife and a mother. She is a wonderful role model for our students.”

She is also president and managing partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and is also the only woman in history to have an ownership stake in three professional sports teams: The Mystics, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals. As co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, Johnson created its popular public affairs program, “Teen Summit.” She recently produced the film “Kicking It,” which chronicles the journey taken by 500 homeless soccer players to Cape Town, South Africa to play in the 4th Annual Homeless World Cup, and “A Powerful Noise,” an inspiring documentary that follows three women from different parts of the world as they lead day-to-day battles against ignorance, poverty, oppression and ethnic strife.

Honorary Degree Recipient: Ingrid Saunders Jones, The Coca-Cola Company
Ingrid Saunders Jones is known nationally for her commitment to community and civic causes and leads The Coca-Cola Company’s philanthropic commitment to education. Under her leadership, The Coca-Cola Foundation has contributed more than $100 million to education, including scholarships and programs for students of color in higher education and initiatives to increase the academic success of students in public and secondary schools. Jones also chairs the board of directors of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta and is the immediate past chair of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta and the National Black Arts Festival.

Honorary Degree Recipient: Ernest G. Green, Lehman Brothers
In addition to his accomplishments as managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers, Ernest G. Green also holds the distinction of being a member of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of African-American students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that ended racial segregation in schools. In 1999, President Clinton presented Mr. Green, along with the other eight members of the “Little Rock Nine,” the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given to a civilian, for his outstanding bravery during the integration of the high school. In 2006, Lehman Brothers established the Ernest G. Green Scholarship, a $10,000 award, to assist sophomores and juniors at historically Black colleges and universities with tuition and other expenses.

National Community Service Award Recipient: Erica Hunt, The Twenty-First Century Foundation
As president of The Twenty-First Century Foundation, Erica Hunt works tirelessly to empower and improve Black communities by raising funds and giving grants to strong community-based organizations. Under her leadership, the foundation operates the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Fund, which supports equitable recovery in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and the Black Men and Boys Initiative, a program that supports 22 organizations in four cities that are dedicated to creating educational and job opportunities for young Black men.

Baccalaureate Service
Spelman will hold its Baccalaureate service on Saturday, May 17, on the Spelman College Oval beginning at 9 a.m. This year’s speaker will be author and scholar Luther E. Smith Jr., Ph.D., a professor of Church and Community at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. For more information about the Spelman College Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies, please visit