In Memoriam: Renowned International Music Star

Jessye Norman

Howard alumna Jessye Norman died in late September at 74 years old. She was a renowned international opera star and Grammy-winning soprano.

She entered Howard University on full-tuition scholarship at 16 years old and graduated cum laude in 1967 from the College of Fine Arts. She continued her studies at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan, earning an M.A. degree in 1968. On the occasion of the 1982 Commencement Convocation, Howard University conferred upon Ms. Norman the honorary Doctor of Music degree. A distinguished leader and caretaker of alma mater’s legacy, she served on the Howard University Board of Trustees from 2002–14.

Her accolades include numerous Grammy Awards; the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal; the Kennedy Center Honors; and more than 40 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges, universities and conservatories around the world. Former United Nations Secretary-General Xavier Perez de Cuellar made her an Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations in 1990. In 2000, Howard honored Ms. Norman with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. In 2006, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and served as the guest vocalist at our Charter Day Dinner. In 2009, she was honored with the National Medal of the Arts—the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.

The Jessye Norman School for the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, is a tuition-free arts education program for talented middle-school students otherwise unable to experience private arts tutoring. The school is Ms. Norman’s response to the understanding that given the opportunity to explore the arts, students introduced to this positive means of self-expression perform better in their other studies and become more involved citizens.

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