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President Valerie Smith's Charge to Virginia Johnson

Virginia Johnson is a renowned and trailblazing ballerina who has shaped her field through work as a performer, editor, and director. She is a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and was an integral part of the company for nearly 30 years. During her performing career at the Dance Theater of Harlem, she appeared as a principal dancer in dozens of roles, including Concerto Barocco, Allegro Brillante, Agon, Swan Lake, and Giselle. She is perhaps best known for her performance in the broadcast version of Creole Giselle, which first aired in 1987.

After retiring from performing, Virginia embarked on a communications degree at Fordham University. While there, she created Pointe Magazine, an acclaimed magazine covering the world of ballet. Virginia spent nine years as the magazine’s editor-in-chief before rejoining the Dance Theatre of Harlem as the company’s artistic director. 

In this role, Virginia helped restore Dance Theatre of Harlem’s professional touring company after an eight-year hiatus. She continues the challenging work of balancing the rich history of the Dance Theater of Harlem with building a new and vibrant future for the company and the art form of ballet while simultaneously guiding the company through the pandemic.

And now, Virginia Johnson, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Arts.