VALDOSTA — From his early days as a student leader at Valdosta State University to his commitment to honorably serving and defending the country to his successful career as a national trial lawyer, Robert L. Shannon has dedicated his life to making a difference.
Shannon considers it a personal mission to inspire and empower others to develop their inner leader, find their courage, and take bold action, university officials said in a statement. He recently partnered with VSU and endowed a scholarship that will support the development of future transformational leaders for generations to come.
Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU, said Shannon represents all that is great about VSU — heart, a strong work ethic and passion.
“I have always brought to the table the leadership and relationship-building opportunities VSU gave me as a teenager and young adult,” Shannon said. “Now, I am blessed with the honor and opportunity to support a leadership scholarship for the next generation of VSU future leaders. There is no limit to God’s glory.”
In recognition of Shannon’s past and ongoing contributions to the betterment of Blazer Nation, VSU dedicated the Shannon Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in his honor.
The Shannon Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is located on the third floor of VSU’s Student Union and houses the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. Carvajal described it as a space for all students who cherish diversity.
Dr. Vince Miller, vice president for Student Affairs, said the center’s common area “will serve as a gathering place where diverse students can come meet, rest from the anxiety of classes and just be themselves.”
The Shannon Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion stands as visible reminder of VSU’s renewed commitment to educate on diversity, enhance equity and embrace inclusivity. Sandra Y.G. Jones, director of student diversity and inclusion, said she is “absolutely ecstatic” about the center, which will also serve as a gathering spot for special programs, mentor groups and events.
“I am eternally grateful for the honor bestowed up me,” Shannon said. “President Carvajal is an amazing leader. As a former United States Air Force general officer and as a national trial lawyer defending Fortune 500 companies, my engagement in complex legal, business and military issues has been exhilarating and, at times, overwhelming. I have been blessed with training, experiences and opportunities that have allowed me to address successfully this complex set of issues.”
A national trial lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies in high-exposure matters throughout the United States, Shannon is a shareholder in the Atlanta office of the national law firm Carlton Fields. His clients often refer to him as a SWAT attorney since he routinely parachutes into cases shortly before trial to assume the role as lead trial counsel, university officials said.
He has appeared in cases days before a trial, and in one case involving a multinational company, he assumed the role as lead trial counsel on the second day of trial. He has parachuted into more than 250 cases across the nation.
Shannon graduated from Valdosta State in 1981 with a bachelor of arts in political science. He was the first African-American student to serve as comptroller for the Student Government Association; he was elected president the following year.
He also served as president of the Kappa Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. In 1980, he led the student effort to start a football program. He returned to his alma mater in December 2019 to deliver the keynote address during VSU’s 228th commencement.
Upon graduation Shannon was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force through Valdosta State’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp Detachment 172. He served on active duty for seven years, flying with the 552nd Air Warning Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He then transferred to the Air National Guard to attend law school, graduating with a juris doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991.
During his more than 35-year military career, Shannon deployed 18 times in support of combat and contingency operations to approximately 30 countries. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as major general in March 2017.
In the last four years of his military career, he averaged almost 170 days a year performing his assigned military duties at 25th Air Force and at the Pentagon while conducting high-exposure trials throughout the United States in his civilian capacity.
“Major General Robert Shannon Jr., known to his friends as ‘Bobby,’ has been a remarkable member of Blazer Nation beginning when he served his fellow students as a Student Government Association leader,” said John Crawford, vice president of University Advancement at VSU. “As student body president he spearheaded student support for introducing football at Valdosta State. As an airman in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard he demonstrated remarkable leadership that resulted in a distinguished career as a flag officer. As an attorney his skills have earned him a national reputation among the very best litigators. His generosity to his alma mater will result in a scholarship that will recognize uncommon student leadership and will promote VSU’s values through the Shannon Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
VSU’s Shannon Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host an open house in the spring, university officials said.
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