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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox College Honorary Degrees to Poet Laureate, Anthropologist, Jazz Legend

Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Anthropologist Alan Harn, Jazz Legend Ramsey Lewis

Knox College announced today the recipients of honorary degrees to be awarded at the 2014 Commencement Exercises on Saturday, June 7.

They are Natasha Trethewey, 19th Poet Laureate of the United States, who will deliver the Commencement Address; Alan Harn, assistant curator of anthropology at Dickson Mounds Museum; and Ramsey Lewis, Grammy-award winning and renowned jazz musician.

About the 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients:

Natasha TretheweyNatasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. She earned an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University and M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work, was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. She has published three more collections of poetry and one book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which appeared in 2010.

Trethewey's many awards and honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She has held appointments at Duke University, as the Lehman Brady Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies; the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; and Yale University, where she was the James Weldon Johnson Fellow in African American Studies at the Beinecke Library. She currently serves as the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. In 2012, she was named Poet Laureate of the State of Mississippi and the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States.

Alan HarnAlan Harn
Alan Harn is assistant curator of anthropology at the Dickson Mounds Museum, one of the nation's premier on-site archeological museums. Working at the museum since 1962, Harn has researched the ancient native people who built the series of burial mounds some 750-900 years ago. Located in Fulton County, Illinois, just 50 miles south of the Knox campus in Galesburg, the mounds are believed to contain the remains of more than 2,000 people.

Harn was born just west of the mounds, and as a boy began collecting artifacts in the area. He knew and eventually would come to work with Dr. Don Dickson, who owned the property and conducted excavations at Dickson Mounds starting in the 1920s. Dickson sold the site to the State of Illinois in 1945. The burial site itself was closed to public viewing in 1992. In 1995, Illinois undertook a widely acclaimed, state-of-the-art renovation of the popular Dickson Mounds Museum.

For many years, Harn has taken time from his immense research and writing agenda in order to guide visiting groups of Knox College students through the museum, as well as the laboratory and collections areas normally open only to research staff and visiting scholars. He is currently working on a history of the past 50 years of research and discoveries at the Dickson Mounds excavations.

Ramsey LewisRamsey Lewis
Ramsey Lewis has been a 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. 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.

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

In 2009, 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 the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. 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. Among his numerous honors are a 2004 Image Award from the NAACP and a 2007 Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2024