Sheila C. Johnson

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Black Entertainment Television (BET)

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Education, Youth, Health, Human Services & Global Development

OVERVIEW: Sheila Johnson does her grantmaking through the Sheila C. Johnson Foundation, an under the radar charitable organization that does not appear to accept unsolicited proposals. Johnson supports arts, education, and youth, among other interest areas. She has given particularly large sums to higher education, with some of this work supporting arts education. 

BACKGROUND: Sheila Johnson was born in 1949 in Pennsylvania. She received a B.A. in music from the University of Illinois. After graduation, Johnson worked as a music teacher at Sidwell Friends and in 1975 founded a youth orchestra. With her former husband Robert Johnson, she co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1980. BET sold to Viacom for $3 billion. Johnson has since been involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures, including founding Salamander Hotels and Resorts. 


ARTS: Sheila Johnson has a strong passion for the arts and arts education. Johnson has supported organizations like A Place to Be, a therapeutic arts outfit; Urban Gateways in Chicago; and The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

EDUCATION: Johnson's education philanthropy also involves the arts. The Hill School in Virginia is home to the Sheila C. Johnson Performing Arts Center. New School's Parsons School of Design is home to the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and Morrisville State College in Upstate New York is home to the Sheila Johnson Design Center. Johnson's connection to Parsons is that she joined the board after connecting with a Parsons graduate. As for Morrisville, she knew a school official from her involvement with the U.S. Equestrian Team.

Apart from arts education, Johnson has supported Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Project Knapsack, a nonprofit pen-pal and backpack exchange program. Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership, meanwhile is the site of the Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellowship, which "brings together diverse and talented emerging leaders working to address disparities in predominantly underserved communities through efforts in health care, education, economic development, public policy, criminal justice reform, social entrepreneurship, and a variety of other fields." University of Virginia's Curry School of Education is home to the Sheila C. Johnson School for Human Services

An important grantee here is Western Loudoun County Community Schools Foundation, whose goal is to "provide financial resources to supplement and preserve historic local schools serving the rural communities of western Loudoun County." Johnson has also supported Jackie Robinson Foundation.

YOUTH: Grantees include Central Loudoun Little League, Street Soccer USA, and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington. Johnson also has a strong passion for horseback and supports United States Equestrian Foundation. 

HEALTH & GLOBAL: Johnson via her foundation also supports organizations that work on a global level. These include The Kakenya Center for Excellence, which "seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education to become agents of change", Marina Orth Foundation, which works for students in Colombia and elsewhere, and Accordia Global Health Foundation. Johnson has also supported health organization like SLS Lupus Foundation.

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Johnson to continue to support her select interest areas, particularly the arts and education. 


The Sheila C. Johnson Foundation does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch but below is an address:

Sheila C. Johnson Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 1767
Middleburg, VA 20118