Entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson's $5 Million Gift to U.Va.'s Curry School of Education Will Create New Center for Human Services

December 06, 2006
Dec. 6, 2006 -- Businesswoman Sheila C. Johnson, an advocate for the protection of children and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), has pledged $5 million to the Curry School of Education to establish a center for human services at the school.

The Sheila C. Johnson Center for Human Services will bring together the most significant outreach efforts of the Curry School, serving more than 7,500 children, adults and families annually.

The gift was announced today at a news conference in the office of Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, also an ardent supporter of early childhood education and a close friend of Johnson’s.

Kaine calls Johnson, who has spoken around the world on behalf of children, a powerful voice for children’s rights.

“I want to thank Sheila Johnson for her generosity and her commitment to spreading opportunity — especially when it comes to educating our youngest citizens,” he said. “Both her vision and her leadership are extraordinary, and the University and the commonwealth are grateful for her willingness to commit to this exciting partnership.”

In thanking Johnson for her gift, University President John T. Casteen III said, “Sheila Johnson’s generous gift reflects her commitment to children in need and will enhance the most critical public services that the Curry School of Education offers. The Curry School’s clinics assist thousands of children, students and adults each year.

“The new center, named in Sheila’s honor, will enable the school to reach even more persons in need. This gift will also help us equip our students with what Thomas Jefferson called ‘useful knowledge’ — knowledge they will use to educate young people in the years ahead.”

“When I first heard about this center, I wanted to get involved. The work that is being done at the Curry School of Education is extremely important to the well-being of children and families,” said Johnson, who now serves on the Curry School Foundation Board. “So many children struggle with learning disabilities in our society and are misdiagnosed. The Curry School will provide a place for children, parents and families to get the help they need.”    

David Breneman, dean of the Curry School, believes the new center will be a major addition. “Through the work of these clinics,” he said,  “thousands of Virginia citizens will be helped to realize their educational potential.”

Breneman said the center will include clinics that specialize in communication disorders, reading and literacy acquisition, counseling and career development, and clinical psychological services. Additionally, these services provide clinical experience for Curry students and practitioners.

The center will be housed on the main floor of the Curry School’s new building, Bavaro Hall, set to break ground in 2007. The locale will make the clinics a more visible part of the University and make them more accessible to the public.

Johnson is an ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.  At BET, she was instrumental in creating an award-winning weekly program, “Teen Summit,” which gives teenagers a chance to talk frankly about their critical issues. 

She also is CEO of Salamander Hospitality LLC and a partner in Lincoln Holdings LLC, which owns the Washington Capitals, a National Hockey League team, and the Washington Mystics, a Women’s National Basketball Association team. She serves as president, managing partner and governor of the Mystics. She also serves on the board of U.Va.’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

The Sheila C. Johnson Center will comprise four clinics:

Clinical Psychology
The Center for Clinical Psychology Services provides an onsite training clinic for students to practice psychological assessment and intensive one-on-one therapy. The Center provides comprehensive psychological services including psychological assessment, intervention and consultation on issues such as learning, attention and/or emotional problems. Psychological intervention is available for children, adolescents, adults, couples, families and groups.

Counselor Education and Career Development
The Personal and Career Development Center offers free career counseling, career exploration, and vocational assessments, as well as short-term personal and crisis counseling. Gaining valuable authentic experience, doctoral level and advanced master’s level students from the Counselor Education Program provide the counseling under the supervision of the faculty director.

McGuffey Reading Clinic
The McGuffey Reading Clinic, established in 1946, is the longest serving university reading clinic in the United States.  Located in the Curry School, the Clinic is named after the Rev. William Holmes McGuffey, author of the famous McGuffey Readers published in the mid-1800s and Professor of Moral Philosophy at U.Va.

The UVA Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic offers comprehensive services for the diagnosis and treatment of language, speech, swallowing, and hearing disorders for adults, adolescents, children, and infants. The facility has treatment rooms with observation capabilities and diagnostic suites for hearing evaluations and hearing aid fittings. Most services are provided by graduate student associate clinicians under the direct supervision of speech-language pathology and audiology faculty who are licensed by the State of Virginia and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.