Lionel Richie coming to Tuskegee

This is a news release.

Alumnus Lionel Richie to Deliver Commencement Address to Tuskegee University Graduating Class

TUSKEGEE, AL – Tuskegee University will graduate more than 500 students during its annual Commencement Exercises in the Daniel "Chappie" James Center for Aerospace Science and Health Education on Sunday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. According to the Office of the Registrar, degrees conferred include the Doctor of Philosophy; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine; Master of Science; Bachelor of Arts; and Bachelor of Science. This year, the University will confer degrees to more black Ph.D. candidates in the Materials Science and Engineering Program than any other institution in the U.S.

"I look forward to presiding over this important rite of passage for our esteemed students and to present Lionel Richie as speaker for the Commencement audience. Lionel is one of the world's greatest artists and philanthropists, and a renowned Tuskegee University graduate," said Tuskegee University President, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, who has served the University with extraordinary brilliance for over 28 years, amassing an amazing record of illustrious achievement.

This will be the last Commencement ceremony for Payton, the institution's fifth president, in his present role. He announced his retirement in 2009, effective June 30, 2010.

Richie, a staunch supporter of the University and the Tuskegee community, of which he is a native, will announce plans to assist the Institution with its newest initiative to become a truly interactive global University.  He will also announce a program of internships and scholarships for Tuskegee students to help them study, learn and join the management ranks of the music and entertainment industry. The announcement and speech will be delivered live via satellite, showcasing the University's new capabilities.

Richie, Class of 1974, spent more than a decade as a saxophonist and lead singer with the Commodores, a funk-pop group formed in 1968 on the campus of Tuskegee University. After being featured on the group's hits "Easy," "Sail On" and "Three Times a Lady," Richie departed from the band in 1982 and became an even greater success as a solo act, hitting No. 1 on the pop charts with singles like "Hello," "All Night Long" and"Say You, Say Me."

A visible, passionate activist, Richie co-wrote with Michael Jackson the USA for Africa benefit tune, "We Are the World," which was recorded by an all-star cast of popular singers and became a giant hit. He also has helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, stating that his grandmother, who survived the disease, was his enduring symbol of hope and his reason for becoming a breast cancer activist.

Most recently, Richie was honored by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) during its "Evening of Stars" (airdate Jan. 23-24, 2010) for his career and commitment to education. He will receive the Tuskegee University President's Distinguished Service Award at Commencement on Sunday.

Doors to the James Center will open at 7:30 a.m. Only those with tickets will be allowed in the arena, and must be seated by 8:30 a.m. The processional of students and faculty will begin at 8:45 a.m. from Kresge Center to the James Center.

People without tickets will be directed to satellite locations in the James Center's museum, University Chapel, and the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center auditorium. There will also be a webcast, "2010 Commencement LIVE!" of the day's exercises available to those with Internet access.

According to Tuskegee University Police Chief Wilbert Anderson, public parking will be available in all legal, non-reserved spaces on campus. Roadways will not be recognized as parking spaces. The first section of the Engineering Building (Foster Hall) will be reserved for handicapped and VIP attendees. The circular area in front of the James Center will be designated for medical agency transport. Access gates that will be open are: Lincoln, West (Franklin Road) and North (Patterson Hall). TheUniversity Physical Plant will offer shuttle service from designated areas on campus not within immediate walking distance to the James Center. Anderson said officers will be on duty to control traffic to and from campus, as well as control the crowd in the James Center and other areas.

Other Commencement activities include:

The Induction of Teacher Education Candidates will be held Friday, May 7 in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. The speaker for the event is Dr. Joseph B. Morton, State Superintendent of Education.

On Saturday, May 8, the Army and Air Force ROTC Officers' Commission will be held in the Tuskegee University Chapel. The speaker for the occasion is Maj. Gen. (Retired) James E. Donald, who currently serves as the Georgia Commissioner of Corrections.

Also Saturday, the Nursing and Allied Health Capping and Pinning Ceremony will be held. The speaker is Dr. Carrie Long, assistant professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Nursing and 2001 graduate of Tuskegee University.

A tradition of the University President, a reception for the graduation candidates and their parents will be at Grey Columns, the President's Home from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

On Sunday, immediately following Commencement Exercises, veterinary medicine graduates will take their official oath to their profession in the University Chapel.

Tuskegee University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and all of its professional programs are accredited by their respective agencies.

The University has undergone a spectacular transformation of its academic programs, physical plant and infrastructure during the Payton administration, and has had its endowment increase from $15 million to $102 million.