The Collegian
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

2017 commencement speakers to include founder of BET, Reynolds executive, Virginia chief justice

<p>Robins School of Business.</p>

Robins School of Business.

Sheila Johnson, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), will serve as the main graduation speaker during commencement weekend, May 6-7, according to an announcement from University Communications Monday. 

Johnson, the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams, is also the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, a hotel management company. She oversees the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, which Travel + Leisure magazine named as one of the “World’s Greatest Hotels.”

Johnson is also deeply committed to philanthropic work, serving from 2006-2009 as the global ambassador for CARE, an organization that seeks to fight poverty by empowering women. She was previously a member of Accordia Global Health Foundation’s International Council, where she helped gain support for the foundation to fight infectious diseases in Africa.

Robert Reynolds, a 1998 graduate of the Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business and principal at Reynolds Development, a commercial real estate and property management company, will deliver the commencement speech for the MBA ceremony.

Reynolds, whose great-grandfather established Reynolds Metals Company, served on the business school’s Executive Advisory Council from 2004-2006. 

Reynolds Metals Co. donated $1 million to name the MBA program after Richard S. Reynolds.

Finally, Donald Lemons, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, will deliver the T.C. Williams School of Law commencement address.

Lemons, a University of Virginia alumnus, was an assistant dean and assistant professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law from 1976-1978 before being elected to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2000.

He has served as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia since 2014.

Contact reporter Katherine Schulte at

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