An Evening With Sheila Johnson was a live-to-tape, one-on-one interview with entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson conducted by veteran PBS-TV news journalist Gwen Ifill. Taped on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at The Art Institute of Chicago, the program featured performances by Susan Starrett, Everett Greene, Joan Collaso and Kindred The Family Soul. An Evening With Sheila Johnson was the twenty-third program in The HistoryMakers’ signature An Evening With… series.
Throughout the evening, Ifill guided Johnson through significant moments of personal and professional transformation. Beginning with Johnson’s time as a music educator, the interview moved into a conversation about Black Entertainment Television (BET) - its founding, expansion, and ultimate sale to Viacom - before transitioning to Johnson’s later entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors. An Evening With Sheila Johnson spotlighted Johnson’s numerous accomplishments in the realms of music, media, sports and hospitality.
Sheila C. Johnson is a successful entrepreneur and impassioned philanthropist.
As Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties, including the equestrian-inspired Salamander Resort & Spa, recognized in 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the Top 10 Resorts in the South and by Travel + Leisure as one of the World’s Greatest Hotels.
As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson is the only African American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association.
Johnson is a partner in ProJet Aviation, a comprehensive aviation service company specializing in aviation consulting, aircraft acquisitions, management, and charter services. She is also a partner in Mistral, the makers of fine bath, body, and home products; and in November 2012 launched her own collection of luxury scarves, inspired by her travels around the world. In 2013, in recognition of her entrepreneurial success, she was invited to serve as a judge for Ernst & Young’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the only judge on the international panel to represent the United States.
Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She has served as executive producer of four documentary films, including Kicking It, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; A Powerful Noise, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival; She Is the Matador; and The Other City, a critically acclaimed portrayal of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington, D.C., which premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. She also helped finance the Screen Actors Guild nominated feature film The Butler.
A fervent supporter of education and the arts, she serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and is a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership (CPL). She is also a board member of the ANNIKA Foundation, as well as founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, a celebration of independent film that opened to sell-out crowds in October 2013.
From 2006 to 2009, Johnson served as global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that combats global poverty by empowering women. She also served as a member of Accordia Global Health Foundation’s International Council, rallying support for the foundation’s efforts to overcome the burden of infectious diseases in Africa.
An accomplished violinist, Ms. Johnson received a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from numerous other institutions. She lives in Middleburg, Virginia with her husband, the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr. Johnson has two children.
Pioneering journalist Gwen Ifill was born in Queens, New York in 1955. After earning her B.A. degree in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, she was hired by The Boston Herald American in the midst of the city’s notorious busing crisis. After joining the Baltimore Evening Sun, she moved to covering national politics. In 1984, Ifill was hired by The Washington Post; and in 1991, she became the White House correspondent for The New York Times. In 1994, she was named the chief congressional correspondent for NBC, and in 1999, she became the moderator of PBS’ Washington Week in Review, as well as a correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice presidential debate. Her first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
In 2011, Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. She is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates and several broadcasting excellence awards, including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television. Ifill also interviewed Diahann Carroll, Quincy Jones, Eartha Kitt and Smokey Robinson for The HistoryMakers annual PBS-TV An Evening With…series.
Ifill passed away in 2016.
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