Thursday, March 10, 2011

Congratulations, Dr. J.!

MJ HIStory: In New York, 1988
Michael Jackson is awarded an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters by Fisk University in New York City.

Michael Jackson

On March 10, 1988, the United Negro College Fund recompenses him with Fisk University’s "Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree" and the Frederick D. Patterson Award at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City, N.Y., honoring the entertainer’s continued commitments to "UNCF" towards alleviating world hunger, his help of terminally ill children and his inspirational example to the youth of America. On March 1, Jackson presents the UNCF's CEO with 600,000 dollars from a benefit concert. President Henry Ponder of Fisk University praises Jackson and his relief contributions on handing the degree over to him:

As though your special gift and talent was not sufficient, you have sought to make the world a better place through many humanitarian and philanthropic efforts with “We Are The World”, a song you co-wrote with Lionel Richie”. Ponder continues: “You touched the hearts of hundreds of millions of people and spurred international efforts to eradicate world hunger.”

In presenting the entertainer the coveted Frederick D. Patterson Award, named for the former Tuskegee Institute (now University) president who founded the UNCF in 1944, Dr. Mabel McLean, president of the Barber Scotia College in Concord, N.C., and then chair of the presidents of UNCF member institutions tell Jackson: 

“Through your efforts to increase knowledge, to combat hunger, to aid terminally ill children, to inspire youth, you have shown that caring, sharing and daring to lend a hand is what’s really Bad!”

In a surprise pre-recorded message by then President Ronald Reagan, he congratulates the honoree for the Patterson Award and for becoming the new
 “Dr. J.”;

“I’m specially impressed by your involvement with the T.J. Martell Foundation, Camp Good Times for children fighting cancer and the United Negro College Fund, a charity Nancy, [my wife] and I have been personally committed to for years…”, Reagan states, adding that “[…] Your partnership with the UNCF will help accomplish more good in the world… God bless you.” 

That night, two scholarship recipients from the Michael Jackson Scholarship Fund he established four years before, Curresia McFarland and Ellis Staten, present to him a book of thank-you letters from all of the students enrolled at Black colleges on his scholarships, and make brief thank-you speeches to Jackson.

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