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Montgomery College to Celebrate 2019 Graduating Class Friday, May 17
Ms. Sheila Johnson to Deliver Commencement Address

Montgomery College will celebrate the class of 2019 in commencement ceremonies Friday, May 17, 2019 at 10 a.m. Graduates from the College’s three campuses in Montgomery County, Md., Germantown, Rockville and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, along with apprenticeship graduates in the Workforce Development and Continuing Education programs, will be honored. The ceremonies will take place on the Rockville Campus. Of note, one graduate first began taking credit courses at Montgomery College in 1976, over 70 percent of the graduates are nonwhite, about 54 percent graduated from Montgomery County Public Schools, and approximately 57 percent of 2019 graduates are female.

The 2019 commencement speaker will be Sheila Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts and vice chairman of Monumental Sports and Entertainment. The ceremony also recognizes four remarkable people in our community with honorary degrees: Ms. Mindi Jacobson, executive director, FutureLink; Mrs. Catherine Leggett, senior vice president of human resources, International City/County Management Association; the Honorable Isiah Leggett, former Montgomery County executive; and Mr. Elias Woldu, entrepreneur and community activist. The College will also recognize the full-time faculty member of the year, part-time faculty member of the year, and staff member of the year.


Ms. Sheila C. Johnson
Founder and CEO
Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Ms. Sheila C. Johnson is founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts (SHR), a collection of luxury properties with more than $200 million in revenue in 2018. It is ranked number four in minority-owned companies in the Washington metropolitan area. SHR includes the equestrian inspired Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, awarded the esteemed Forbes five-star rating. The collection features two top golf resorts in Florida: Hammock Beach in Palm Coast and Innisbrook in Tampa Bay (home of the annual PGA Valspar Championship at the acclaimed Copperhead course). Other properties include the Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, Florida, and the Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina, which opened in January 2019.

As vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals (2018 Stanley Cup Champions), and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as president and managing partner. She also served on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association, where she spearheaded efforts to increase diversity in the game of golf.

Ms. Johnson was on Forbes magazine’s 2017 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. In 2016, she co-founded WE Capital, a venture capital consortium to support and empower female-led enterprises advancing transformational social change. She also serves on the board of the Greater Washington Partnership, which seeks to strengthen the region’s global position as a center for commerce and innovation.

She was a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She served as executive producer of four documentary films, including Kicking It, A Powerful Noise, She Is the Matador, and The Other City. She also helped finance the Screen Actors Guild-nominated feature film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. She is the founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, an annual celebration of independent film.

Ms. Johnson serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design and is a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. She is also a board member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

An accomplished violinist, she received a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from numerous institutions. She lives in Middleburg, Virginia, is married to the Honorable William T. Newman Jr., and has two children.


Ms. Mindi P. Jacobson
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Future Link, Inc.

Ms. Mindi P. Jacobson is the co-founder and executive director of Future Link, Inc., a Montgomery County-based nonprofit organization seeking to close the opportunity divide for first-generation, economically disadvantaged students by providing resources, opportunities, and skills to help them achieve self-sufficiency. The organization’s supportive model includes academic assistance, career development, internships, and mentoring.

Mrs. Catherine S. Leggett
Senior Vice President for Human Resources
International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation

Mrs. Catherine S. Leggett is the senior vice president for human resources at International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation (ICMA-RC). She is responsible for developing and implementing the human capital and real estate strategy and aligning it with ICMA-RC’s overall business objectives. She is also responsible for the delivery of human resources services to ICMA-RC’s employees.

The Honorable Isiah Leggett
Former Montgomery County Executive

The Honorable Isiah Leggett was elected Montgomery County executive in 2006, serving three terms. Prior to his experience as county executive, he was elected to the Montgomery County Council, serving four terms as an at-large member (1986–2002). He is the first African American to be elected to either office.

Mr. Elias Woldu
Executive Director
Ethiopian Community Center of Maryland

Mr. Elias Woldu is the executive director of the Ethiopian Community Center of Maryland (ECCM), which connects Ethiopian residents of Montgomery County to vital county resources and promotes the cultural heritage of Ethiopia. At ECCM, he advocates for the needs of prospective and current Montgomery College students. He also works closely with College leadership to eliminate challenges Ethiopian students face. He serves as a liaison between other Ethiopian organizations and the College to create awareness about how to effectively reach Ethiopian residents interested in pursuing higher education.


Apprenticeship Scholar: Mr. Michael Philip Gibson
Mr. Michael Philip Gibson is completing a four-year apprenticeship program as an HVAC technician. He is graduating with a 3.9 grade point average. He is enrolled in the Association of Air Conditioning Professionals apprenticeship-related instruction program. He has been employed by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for 17 years—and will assume the role of mechanical systems technician III upon graduation. Ultimately, he would like to serve as a depot manager for MCPS. He is a passionate sports fan and enjoys watching the Washington Redskins and the Washington Nationals. He is an avid fisherman and duck pin bowler. He also likes participating in organized charitable events, especially for Breast Cancer Awareness. Mr. Gibson and his wife, Tracy, who is an MCPS teacher, live in Boonsboro, Maryland, with their two children, Alyssa and Kyle. A devoted father, he helps with his daughter’s Girl Scout Troop—and looks forward to coaching his son in baseball.

Germantown Campus Scholar: Ms. Marie-Alexandre Adom
Ms. Marie-Alexandre Adom, a biological sciences major and member of Phi Theta Kappa, is graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. She was born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire. After graduating high school, she came to the United States and enrolled at the Germantown Campus. She served as a math and physics tutor and as a learning assistant in chemistry. She received the Dr. Harry Harden Jr. Student Academic Excellence Award, the Edward T. Butler Award for Excellence in the Natural Sciences, the Biology Achievement Award, and the Honors Scholar Award. She won first prize at the Montgomery College STEM Conference by proposing a solution to cortical blindness using physics and biology. She works as a NIST intern and volunteers with elementary school children. In June, she will be volunteering at an orphanage in Indonesia, where she will teach French, German, and baking classes. She wants to pursue an MD/PhD, become a neurosurgeon, and establish hospitals around the world.

Rockville Campus Scholar: Ms. Shamim Azad
Ms. Shamim Azad, an environmental science and policy major and member of Phi Theta Kappa, is graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. Born and raised in Iran, she came to the United States, enrolling at the Rockville Campus in 2016. She could not speak English when she started her new journey at the College, but everyone at the school welcomed and empowered her. By graduation this year, she was a successful science and math tutor and a learning assistant for a 200-level course. She also received the Dr. Harry Harden Jr. Student Academic Excellence Award and the Edward T. Butler Award for Excellence in the Natural Sciences. Outside of school, she works as a dental assistant who loves to work with patients. She also volunteers in the dental field with Mission of Mercy. She plans to continue her education in the dental hygiene program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She wants to spread awareness about the importance of oral health.

Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus Scholar: Mr. Benjamin T. Bromley-Coolidge
Mr. Benjamin T. Bromley-Coolidge, a biological sciences major and member of Phi Theta Kappa, graduated in December 2018 with a 4.0 grade point average. He also received a Delegate Scholarship. A native Californian, he moved to Maryland in 2016. During his time at the College, he worked part time, trained and competed in multiple endurance events, and volunteered for the LUNGevity Foundation and the Little People of America organization. Last October, he became the first person with dwarfism to complete the Marine Corps Marathon. He hopes that completing this challenge will encourage others with dwarfism to pursue dreams they once thought impossible. After completing his associate’s degree, Mr. Bromley-Coolidge transferred to University of Maryland to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. His goal is to go to medical school and pursue a degree in medical research and immunology.


  • One candidate for this year’s graduation first began taking credit courses in fall 1976.
  • The average age for Associate Degree recipients is expected to be 26; the average age for Certificate recipients should be about 33.
  • More than half (about 54 percent) of the graduates are products of a Montgomery County public high school.
  • Diversity: Over 70 percent of the graduates are nonwhite – about 12 percent Asian, 25 percent Black, 24 percent Hispanic, and 24 percent white; the remainder will be comprised of Native American/Alaska Natives, students categorized as “foreign,” students who are multi-racial, Hawaiian-Pacific Islanders, or Unknown.
  • This year’s graduates who were not born in this country are likely to come from between 110 and 115 different countries, with the largest numbers coming from Ethiopia, Cameroon, El Salvador, China, and Peru.
  • More than half (57 percent) of the estimated graduates are female.
  • About 24 percent of the year’s projected number of graduates will have taken at least one course in Workforce Development and Continuing Education while they were pursuing their Degree or Certificate.


Social Media: Follow us on social media at #MCGrad2019

On Cable TV (in Montgomery County):

Comcast Channels 998 (HD) & 10 (SD)

RCN Channels 1059 (HD)

Verizon Channel 10 (SD)

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