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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Honorary Degree to Ramsey Lewis

June 07, 2014

Citation read by Fred L. Hord, professor and chair of Africana Studies, Knox College.

President Amott, I am honored to present Ramsey Lewis, Grammy-Award winning Jazz musician, for the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.

Ramsey Lewis has been an iconic leader in the contemporary jazz movement for more than 50 years, while also making a significant impact on the pop music and rhythm and blues genres. Working with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt, Lewis released his first album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, in 1956. His 1965 hit "The In Crowd" earned the first of his seven gold records, as well as the first of three Grammy awards, and was later selected for the Grammy Hall of Fame. Mr. Lewis also scored on the pop charts in 1966 with the Grammy-winning hit "Hang On Sloopy" and "Wade In The Water." He recently released his 80th collection of songs, Ramsey, Taking Another Look.

Mr. Lewis has collaborated with top musical artists throughout his career, including Nancy Wilson, the London Philharmonia Orchestra, Grover Washington, and Earl Klugh. He has hosted jazz shows on radio and television around the country, including a 13-episode "Legends of Jazz"  series on PBS that featured live performances by jazz greats Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Pat Metheny, and Tony Bennett.

A longtime resident of Illinois, Mr. Lewis has contributed greatly to the cultural heritage of the state and regularly promotes the importance of music to its youth. He is artistic director of the Jazz at Ravinia series and co-founder of the Ravinia Mentor Program that promotes jazz in Chicago high schools. He was named the "Citizen of the Year" by Chicago's Gateway Foundation in 1996 and received the Laureate Award from the Lincoln Academy of Illinois the following year. In 2007, he was honored as Legendary Landmark by the Landmarks Illinois association, which honors individuals who have been integral to the civic well-being and cultural integrity of the state. In 2009, Mr. Lewis was commissioned to compose Proclamation of Hope, a new work celebrating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, which received its premiere performance at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

In addition to three Grammys, seven gold records, and three radio industry achievement awards, Mr. Lewis includes a 2004 Image Award from the NAACP and a 2007 Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts among his numerous honors.

President Amott, in honor of his renowned career as a jazz musician and his impact on the cultural heritage of our country and the State of Illinois, I present Ramsey Lewis for the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.

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