More than sixty years ago, Skip Griffin and his siblings were denied an education when Prince Edward County closed public schools rather than integrate. Now, he is returning to his birthplace to address the Longwood Class of 2019 during commencement exercises on May 18.
Brian Ball, the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade who helped lead Virginia’s successful bid to land a major Amazon headquarters in 2017, will address graduate students the night before, Friday, May 17.
Skip Griffin's first lessons in leadership were learned right here in Farmville and Prince Edward County, as he watched his father spearhead an effort to overturn the injustice of school closings that affected his community so deeply.Cameron Patterson, director of the Moton Museum Tweet This
“We look forward to welcoming these two enormously influential figures who have accomplished so much,” said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “Skip Griffin has returned to his hometown many times to visit family, and we are proud to honor him in this way. His family, especially his father along with Skip and his siblings, are among the most courageous in our community’s storied and often painful history. His is a story that deserves to be studied and heard time and time again that we may celebrate historic accomplishments in the civil rights movement, and learn from the past so as not to repeat it.
“Brian Ball is a luminous figure in Richmond, and someone with his eye always on the future. Through his tireless work to build an economy and workforce for 21st century needs, he has been an important ally of Virginia’s colleges and universities and an advocate for important public-private partnerships that lift all boats.”
Secretary Ball is among the most trusted minds in Richmond, and has been a leader in developing Virginia as one of the best places for business in the country.Dr. Jeannine Perry, dean of Longwood’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies Tweet This
Leslie “Skip” Griffin Jr., along with his sisters, were plaintiffs in the landmark 1964 desegregation case that forced Prince Edward County to reopen public schools that had been shuttered rather than integrate. Their father, Rev. L. Francis Griffin, known as “The Fighting Preacher,” was a prominent voice in the civil rights movement and a staunch advocate for education rights.
Skip Griffin went on to graduate from Harvard University with degrees in government and educational administration and organizational policy. He worked at Northeastern University in Boston, as director of the university’s African American Institute, before joining the Boston Globe newspaper, where he worked for 15 years as director of community relations and public affairs. He still contributes opinion columns to the newspaper.
Since 2003, he has worked with Dialogos, a management consulting and leadership development firm, where he has built an international client base that includes the World Bank Group, British Petroleum, United States Forest Service and the Kellogg Foundation.
“Skip Griffin and his family have a strong legacy in Farmville and Prince Edward County that is nearly unmatched,” said Cameron Patterson, director of the Moton Museum, which charts the student protest in 1951 at the all-black school through the public school closings and finally integration. “He is a strong supporter of this community and a highly accomplished person in his own right, offering lessons in leadership to corporations and executives around the world. Of course, his first lessons in leadership were learned right here in Farmville and Prince Edward County, as he watched his father spearhead an effort to overturn the injustice of school closings that affected his community so deeply.”
Brian Ball was appointed the Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade in April 2018, having previously served as the governor’s Special Advisor for Economic Development and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade. He entered public service after a career at Williams Mullen law firm, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions, securities law, and corporate governance.
Under Ball’s leadership, the Commerce and Trade secretariat, which includes the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, successfully wooed Amazon to establish its East Coast headquarters in Virginia, a decision that promises to bring more than 25,000 jobs to Virginia.
Key to Virginia’s successful bid was the strong partnership between state government and higher education institutions. The General Assembly recently passed legislation that creates the necessary framework to strengthen and invest in the tech talent pipeline, with the goal of increasing the production of degrees in computer science and related fields by at least 25,000 by 2039.
“Secretary Ball is among the most trusted minds in Richmond, and has been a leader in developing Virginia as one of the best places for business in the country,” said Dr. Jeannine Perry, dean of Longwood’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies. “His service over many years is a great example of citizen leadership as he has worked to create opportunities for success. We are excited to welcome him to Longwood.”
The 2019 Longwood graduate ceremony will take place Friday, May 17, at 5:30 p.m. in Jarman Auditorium.
The 2019 Longwood undergraduate ceremony will take place Saturday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m. on Wheeler Mall.