Ernie Johnson Jr., a UGA alumnus and host for Turner’s NBA coverage and TNT’s Inside the NBA studio show, will deliver the spring undergraduate Commencement address at the University of Georgia on Friday, May 5, at 7 p.m. in Sanford Stadium.
The graduate ceremony, which will feature Marshall Shepherd, an international expert in weather, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and director of the atmospheric sciences program at UGA, will be held at 10 a.m. in Stegeman Coliseum. Tickets are not required for either ceremony.
The student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony will be Avery Hudson, who will receive her bachelor’s degree from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Johnson, who has received three Sports Emmy Awards, is in his 27th year as the studio host for Turner’s NBA coverage. Johnson serves as the studio host for NBA TV’s Fan Night as well as Turner and CBS’ NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship coverage. He also serves as a play-by-play announcer for TBS’ coverage of the MLB postseason and for Sunday MLB on TBS games throughout the regular season. He provides commentary for the network’s coverage of the PGA Championship each year. Johnson called Atlanta Braves games on SportSouth from 1993-96 with his dad, Ernie Johnson Sr.
He began his career, while attending the University of Georgia, as a news and sports director for WAGQ-FM in Athens. Following graduation, Johnson joined WMAZ-TV, Macon, as a news anchor. In 1981, he served as a news reporter for WSPA-TV, Spartanburg, South Carolina, and from 1983-89 he worked for WSB-TV in Atlanta as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. He covered the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, as well as the Goodwill Games.
“Ernie Johnson is an outstanding alumnus of the University of Georgia, and we are delighted that he is returning to campus to provide the spring undergraduate Commencement address,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “As an accomplished sportscaster for American and international sporting events, he has been part of our nation’s cultural fabric for decades. I look forward to the words of wisdom he will share with our graduates.”
Johnson recently authored his first book, the upcoming Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary. He has received the Bill Hartman Award, the Musial Award, the “John Wooden Keys to Life Award” presented by Athletes in Action;,a Georgia Associated Press Award for sports reporting in 1988 and a United Press International Award for Sportscasting in 1984.
Shepherd teaches in the department of geography at UGA. He is the host of The Weather Channel’s award-winning Sunday talk show Weather Geeks and a contributor to Forbes magazine. Shepherd was the 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society. In 2014, Ted Turner and his Captain Planet Foundation honored Shepherd with its Protector of the Earth Award. He is also the 2015 recipient of the Association of American Geographers Media Achievement Award, the Florida State University Grads Made Good Award and the University of Georgia’s Sandy Beaver Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Shepherd spent 12 years as a research meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was a deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission. President George W. Bush honored him in 2004 with the Presidential Early Career Award for pioneering scientific research. Shepherd is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and has authored nearly 100 publications.
“Dr. Shepherd is one of the world’s pre-eminent scientists and one of this university’s most accomplished and productive faculty members—always pushing the boundaries of his field,” Morehead said. “Our graduate students will benefit tremendously from his message.”
Shepherd routinely appears as an expert before the national media, the White House and Congress. He serves on several national boards and served as editor for two major journals. Shepherd’s research is funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Forest Service. Shepherd received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in physical meteorology from Florida State University.
“Graduate education prepares students for the kind of globally relevant scholarship and outreach that Dr. Shepherd exemplifies,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “With wit, clarity and expertise that comes from years at the forefront of his field, he conveys the wonder and complexity of science to people across the nation and around the world.”