With a proud lineage of renowned alumni including many athletic stars, Blair Academy is excited to welcome Claude Johnson P’23, author of the newly-released book The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era, started the year’s Society of Skeptics on September 20.
Mr. Johnson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in civil engineering and economics from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford. His corporate career included executive posts at global brands IBM, American Express, NBA Properties, Nike, Phat Farm and Benetton Sportsystem.
Mr. Johnson visits the hilltop next week to discuss his book, a narrative nonfiction that reveals the forgotten but important pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball. With innovative storytelling, the author brings to life the players, teams and contributors whose pivotal efforts helped shape the game we know and love today.
Mr. Johnson will speak about the premise of his book, which unravels the details of how and why basketball emerged and thrived in Black communities, while also touching on the meaning and life lessons embedded in his organization’s trademarked “Make History Now” slogan as well as his quest to “give voice to the voiceless.”
Like many of the role models written about in his book, Mr. Johnson is recognized by many as a leader himself. Not only is he an author, founder and historian, but he was also a stay-at-home dad to his three sons and a welcomed speaker at many institutions, such as Blair, where he gets to do something that he enjoys—connecting and sharing insights with young individuals.
“Being able to speak to Blair’s students means everything to me. I wish I had had speakers and similar opportunities like Society of Skeptics to attend when I was that age,” said Mr. Johnson in a pre-event interview.
For high school students, he feels it is important that they “find their voice, pursue their passions and make history now—all while practicing what it means to be still and to trust the universe.”
“Staying humble, staying grateful and remaining open to divine guidance for the greatest highest good,” says Mr. Johnson, are all pieces of advice that he would like to get across to his mentees.
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History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.