Illinois graduate Sheila Johnson to attend Keynote Women’s Summit
CHAMPAGNE, ill. –University of Illinois alumnus Sheila Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the Fighting Illini Women‘s Summit as part of the school’s 50th anniversary celebration of Title IX.
“As part of our Title IX celebration, we couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to be our keynote speaker than Sheila Johnson,” said UI Director of Athletics. Josh Whitman. “Sheila was a pioneer in every sense of the word, innovating throughout her life in education, media, business and sport. Sheila has always been a proud Illini, and we are grateful to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to help us celebrate this important milestone in the advancement of women’s athletics.”
The Illini Women’s Summit is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 9 at the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. The summit will bring together experts analyzing, highlighting and debating the myriad changes in sport – particularly women’s and women’s sports – that have occurred since the creation of Title IX of the Sports Amendments Act of 1972. education. This landmark legislation prohibited gender discrimination in educational programs. and mandated, among other things, that colleges and universities must offer scholarships and sports teams for women commensurate with their overall student populations. The UI Varsity I association will issue invitations this summer to all former Illini student-athletes.
“This Women’s Summit will be a wonderful opportunity, and not just for me, but for anyone who chooses to join us – men and women,” Johnson said. “Because, believe me, to understand Title IX and its impact on American life – both the things it did well and the things that still need polishing – is to understand a little better who we are and where we are going as a country.”
A cheerleader during her days in Champaign-Urbana, 1970 – two years before Title IX passed – she earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance and education. She then, with her then-husband Robert Johnson, co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET), a cable network targeting African Americans, before selling to Viacom in 2001.
Since then, Johnson has created a rich and diverse business portfolio that includes hotels and resorts, real estate and multiple sports franchises. In 2004, Johnson launched Salamander Hotels & Resorts, whose flagship property, the equestrian-themed Salamander Resort & Spa in the heart of Virginia’s horse country, recently received a five-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide for its luxury hotel and its world-class spa, one of only 30 properties in the United States to be so honored.
Other members of the Salamander family of destinations include: Innisbrook, north of Tampa Bay, home of the PGA Championship Valspar, The Bennett Hotel in Charleston, the iconic Aspen Meadows in Aspen, Colorado, Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and, more recently, the Aurora Anguilla Resort & Club in Anguilla.
Johnson, the first African-American woman to hold a stake in three professional sports franchises – the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Mystics (WNBA) – is also Vice President of Monumental Sports and Entertainment and is team president, managing partner and governor of the Mystics.
As the founder of the prestigious Middleburg Film Festival and a deeply committed philanthropist who targets her giving in three areas close to her heart (education, advancing the arts, and empowering women and youth of color), Johnson has received several awards for her support of the arts and humanitarian work over the years, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, Lincoln Medal Award, Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Jean King Leadership Award, WEB DuBois Medal, Annie Oakley Award , the Order of Lincoln Medal from the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the Jacob Burns Film Center Vision Award, the Feminist Press’ Feminine Award, and the Washington Business Hall of Fame Laureate Award.
An accomplished violinist in her own right (as well as a former music teacher), Ms Johnson was last seen teaching cello. In a similar vein, in 2008 she endowed two major initiatives at the University of Illinois School of Music to help young music students and honor two of the most influential people in her life: the Chair of Music Daniel J. Perrino and the Susan Starrett Chair. Violin Chair Scholarships.
The full Illini Women’s Summit program will be available later this summer.