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Three artists who have changed the course of contemporary American
popular culture – singer Ella Fitzgerald and filmmakers George Lucas
and Steven Spielberg – will receive honorary doctorates at the
university’s 111th Commencement.

President Steven B. Sample will confer the honorary degrees, along with
the degrees of nearly 8,000 graduating students, in ceremonies
beginning with the processional at 8:30 a.m. in Alumni Memorial Park.
Lucas and Spielberg will offer remarks following the valedictory

“With these degrees, the university would like to recognize the broad
impact of our cultural chroniclers, among whom these three artists
stand as paragons,” said Sample. “Ella Fitzgerald has preserved for
future generations the extraordinary musical heritage of American jazz
and popular song, while George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have
revitalized the essence of classical myth and storytelling for our
technological age. In their bodies of work, they share an ability to
present what is classic and entertaining as well as thoughtful and
transcendent in American culture.”

Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Singer Doctor of Music

The woman known as the “First Lady of Jazz” actually dreamed of
becoming a dancer before a case of stage fright triggered her legendary
singing career.

Competing in an amateur dance show at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in
1934 – so the story goes – the 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald’s knees
froze. She sang instead. Several encores later, Fitzgerald took home
the $25 first prize and put away her dancing shoes for good.

While still in her teens, Fitzgerald made her professional debut at the
Harlem Opera House and soon after joined the popular Chick Webb
Orchestra. One of the great drummers of the century, Webb became
Fitzgerald’s mentor. Their 1938 hit “A-Tisket A-Tasket,” for which she
also wrote the lyrics, propelled her to stardom. She was named Best
Girl Vocalist by Down Beat magazine from 1937 to 1940.

Following Webb’s death in 1939, Fitzgerald directed the band for three
years, then embarked on a solo career. She recorded dozens of albums,
gained international renown working with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the
Philharmonic and also sang in a group led by her husband, Ray Brown.

Among her projects for Granz’s Verve label was a series of songbooks
dedicated to major American songwriters. The series, which made use of
jazz-inflected arrangements by Nelson Riddle and others, attracted a
very large non-jazz audience and established Fitzgerald among the
supreme interpreters of popular song.

For decades, Fitzgerald has been considered the quintessential female
jazz singer. She commands an extremely wide vocal range, rivaling the
best jazz instrumentalists in virtuosity. She is particularly noted for
improvised scat solos, and she has a gift for mimicry that allows her
to imitate well-known singers from Louis Armstrong to Aretha Franklin.

In all, she has won 14 Grammys – her latest, for All That Jazz, in
1990. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C.,
has presented her its Medal of Honor. The American Society of
Composers, Authors and Publishers has given her the coveted Pied Piper
Award. The Cole Porter family honored her with the first Cole Porter
Centennial Award in 1991. In 1989, she received the first Society of
Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named the Ella in her honor.
Fitzgerald has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees by Harvard and
Princeton universities. She received the Urban League’s Whitney Young
Award in 1984, and President Reagan awarded her the National Medal of
the Arts in 1987.

-Carol Tucker


George Lucas Filmmaker Doctor of Fine Arts

George Lucas, creator of the classic Star Wars and Indiana Jones sagas,
will receive an honorary doctorate in fine arts. Lucas’ motion pictures
have received 16 Oscars and 40 Oscar nominations.

As an entertainment entrepreneur, he is chairman of three Lucas
companies known for their innovation: Lucasfilm Ltd., which includes a
feature film and television production company as well as the THX
Group, creators of state-of-the-art THX sound systems; LucasArts
Entertainment Company, a developer of interactive entertainment
software; and Lucas Digital Ltd., which encompasses Industrial Light &
Magic and Skywalker Sound, which collectively have received 22 Academy
Awards for visual effects and sound design.

A graduate of the School of Cinema-Television, Lucas directed his first
feature film, THX-1138, in 1970 and went on to co-write and direct
American Graffiti, winner of five Academy Award nominations, in 1973.
In 1977, Lucas set new standards for special effects and epic
imagination with Star Wars, a film that broke all box-office records,
earned seven Academy Awards and became a part of the cultural lexicon.
He went on to write the stories for The Empire Strikes Back and Return
of the Jedi, which he also executive-produced.

In 1980, Lucas was executive producer for the first film in the Indiana
Jones triology, Raiders of the Lost Ark. He continued his association
with the series as co-executive producer and creator of the story for
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and executive producer of Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as story author and executive
producer of the television series “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,”
winner of nine Emmy Awards, the Banff Award for best continuing series
and a 1993 Golden Globe nomination.

He also served as executive producer on such films as Willow, Tucker:
The Man and His Dream and the Disney 3-D musical adventure “Captain

At the 1991 Oscars ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences awarded Lucas the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award for
consistent excellence in filmmaking.

Lucas is chairman of the board of the George Lucas Educational
Foundation and serves on the boards of the National Geographic Society
Education Foundation, the Artists Rights Foundation, the Joseph
Campbell Foundation and the Film Foundation. In addition, he is a
member of the School of Cinema-Television’s Board of Councilors and has
donated millions of dollars, his time and support to the school.

– Zsa Zsa Gershick


Steven Spielberg Filmmaker Doctor of Fine Arts

Steven Spielberg, who has reached a new pinnacle of success in his
creative film career this year, will also receive an honorary doctor of
fine arts degree. Spielberg’s Schindler’s List became an international
motion picture event, receiving seven Oscars, including those for best
picture and best director, at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. The
film won every major best-picture award from the critics’ groups, and
Spielberg received the Directors Guild of America Award.

Jurassic Park, which he also directed, set new standards for the
creation of fictional realities and has become the biggest-grossing
film in motion picture history, with a worldwide box-office gross of
more than $880 million.

Spielberg has directed or produced seven of the 20 top-grossing films
of all time. E.T., The Extraterrestrial is still the biggest grossing
film of all time in the United States and Canada and second only to
Jurassic Park worldwide.

In 1987, Spielberg earned the Irving G. Thalberg Award. A year earlier,
he won his first Directors Guild of America Award for his direction of
The Color Purple.

Among the other memorable films he has directed are Jaws, Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade, Empire of the Sun and Hook.

His Amblin Entertainment films, for which he served as producer or
executive producer, include the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed
Roger Rabbit?, An American Tail and The Land Before Time.

Spielberg has also been active in television, producing network and
syndicated programs and specials, including the Emmy Award-winning
“Tiny Toon Adventures,” the current family-adventure series “seaQuest
DSV” and the new animated “Animaniacs,” which recently won a coveted
Peabody Award.

Spielberg got his first directing assignment in television when he was
21. Later, his made-for-television movie “Duel” received critical raves
and led to his first feature, Sugarland Express.

He is a member of the board of the American Film Institute and the
Artists Rights Foundation and chairman of the Starbright Network, which
is devoted to pediatric care and research utilizing the resources of
the entertainment industry.

In the early 1980s, Spielberg donated time, money and leadership to the
development of the state-of-the-art School of Cinema-Television
Complex. He also serves as a member of the school’s Board of

– Zsa Zsa Gershick

[Photo:] For decades, Ella Fitzgerald has been considered the
quintessential female jazz singer.

[Photo:] George Lucas set new standards for special effects and epic
imagination with Star Wars, a film that broke all box-office records,
earned seven Academy Awards and became a part of the cultural lexicon.

[Photo:] Steven Spielberg has directed or produced seven of the 20
top-grossing films of all time.

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