Get to Know Our 25th Anniversary Event Honorees!

DC Habitat’s 25th Anniversary Celebration is right around the corner. If you are planning to attend the November 20th event (and we sure hope you are!), you might enjoy knowing a little more about why we chose our three honorees: Sheila Johnson, Joel Towers and Dee MacDonald Miller. Each of these honorees has made a significant commitment to affordable, energy-efficient housing in Washington, DC.

Sheila Johnson, CEO, Salamander Hotels & Resorts 

Sheila Johnson is a powerhouse in the DC business community. She co-founded BET (Black Entertainment Television) in 1980, and has since served as executive producer on numerous independent films. In 2005, Sheila founded a second highly successful venture, Salamander Hotels & Resorts. She is the Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and is the first and only African-American woman owner/part-owner of three professional sports teams – the Mystics, the Wizards, and the Capitals. Sheila serves on multiple boards and committees related to global poverty, women’s and African-American’s rights, and foreign policy.

Sheila also serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design. It was through this position that she became a supporter of sustainable design. With her real estate know-how and interest in green building, she became the single largest individual financial contributor to the Empowerhouse Project – Parsons’ entry into the 2011 Solar Decathlon and eventual home to two DC Habitat families.

Joel Towers, Executive Dean, Parsons The New School for Design

Joel Towers is a leader in sustainability initiatives at Parsons and in the greater architecture world, conceptualizing new ways to build green from the foundation up. Before becoming Executive Dean, he co-founded SR+T Architects (Sislian, Rothstein, and Towers). Towers worked his way up through the Sustainable Design programs at Parsons, and soon became Dean of the School of Design Strategies, while working as an Associate Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design. Green building is now central to the work of SR+T Architects, due to Towers’ continued environmental efforts and studies.

His commitment to sustainable housing is a clear alignment with DC Habitat’s cause and mission. Under the leadership of Towers, Parsons participated in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and took their subsequent creation beyond the Mall by partnering with us to make it a home for two local families. Towers believes that the Empowerhouse illustrates The New School’s commitment to sustainable housing. His team created an affordable model that goes beyond one competition; it has the potential for national and international replication.

Dee MacDonald-Miller, Managing Director, Jones Lang LaSalle

Before becoming involved in real estate in 1983, Dee worked as an interior designer for a prestigious architecture firm. She is the founding chair of the Parsons School of Design’s DC Alumni Chapter – she graduated from Parsons with a BFA degree in Environmental Design. Through this chapter, Dee created the DC Alumni Chapter Scholarship, helping students in financial need. Her organization created the guidelines for other alumni chapters, aiding in their continued success. Her commitment to Parsons earned her membership on the Parsons Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as the Parsons Board of Governors.

Like Sheila and Joel, Dee became involved with DC Habitat through the Empowerhouse project, given her multiple affiliations with Parsons The New School of Design here in Washington, D.C. She graciously coordinated a wealth of donated labor through her current firm, Jones Lang Lasalle. Dee herself was a constant fixture on the Empowerhouse build site, and we wouldn’t have been able to complete the project without her dedicated time and effort.

By: Alix Eve Schram, DC Habitat

DC Habitat believes that everyone deserves a house they want to call home. That's why we work to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the nation's capital by building (and rehabilitating) affordable, energy- and resource-efficient homes for people in need.