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Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business is pleased to announce alumna Valerie Richardson Jackson (B.S. ’71) as speaker for our school’s commencement ceremony on December 7, 2018. 

She is Board Chair and Principal of Jackmont Hospitality, a licensed franchisee of TGI Fridays. For over 18 years, however, Valerie‘s voice has been recognized as that of NPR station WABE’s award winning host of “Between the Lines” and “Valerie Jackson in Conversation,” a series of in depth conversations with some of today’s most notable thinkers and interesting personalities, such as President Jimmy Carter, musician Wynton Marsalis, authors Toni Morrison and Ken Burns and actor Jane Fonda.

Valerie‘s life embodies an innovative spirit and a list of firsts for African-Americans. She was among the first African-Americans at the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company in Richmond, Virginia while a student at the high school she and her two brothers integrated in 1963, suffering daily harassment and intimidation. With a B.S. in Business Management from the VCU School of Business, she established the first clerical training program for the Richmond Neighborhood Youth Corp. In the early 1970s she was among the few African-American women to earn an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Valerie was the first African-American Account Executive at Grey Advertising in New York as well as the first African-American Regional Marketing Supervisor at TWA‘s corporate headquarters also in New York.

During her tenure as Atlanta’s First Lady, Valerie served as Special Assistant to the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, representing Atlanta from Moscow to Lagos. In 1996, she served as Co-chair of the Children’s Olympic Ticket Fund, providing Olympic tickets for over 20,000 financially challenged children. Valerie’s community work also includes the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation‘s Leadership Academy, whose mission is to develop leadership skills in young students through critical thinking, salesmanship skills and local, as well as international, service.

Among others, Valerie has served on the board of directors of Atlanta Metropolitan State College (formerly Atlanta Technical College), American Cancer Society, High Museum of Atlanta, Northwest Georgia Girl Scout Council, Advisory Board of the Deepak Chopra Foundation, and a former president of the Georgia chapter of the International Women’s Forum.

Valerie has received numerous community, city and state awards including Atlanta’s highest citizen award, the Phoenix Award, and being named one of 100 Women of Influence in Atlanta by the Atlanta Business League.

Until his death, Valerie shared over 26 years of marriage with Maynard Jackson, the first African-American Mayor of Atlanta, whose legacy is reflected in the name of the world’s most traveled airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. She is the mother of their two daughters, Valerie-Amanda and Alexandra.

Visit our School of Business commencement webpage for ceremony details.

Visit the VCU commencement website for information on the university-wide ceremony and general graduation questions.

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