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Lionel Richie ’74, Valerie Jarrett to lead Tuskegee University’s Inaugural Host Committee

March 08, 2019

Contact: Michael Tullier, APR, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Lionel Richie and Valerie Jarrett
Richie and Jarrett

As Tuskegee University prepares for upcoming events celebrating the inauguration of its eighth president, Dr. Lily D. McNair, on March 15, it has enlisted the support of an esteemed group of alumni and friends to serve as members of its Inaugural Host Committee.

Leading this group as co-chairs are two household names in the campus and surrounding community because of their support of and ties to the 137-year-old university.

“We are beyond excited and appreciative that Lionel Richie and Valerie Jarrett are lending their time and efforts to our inaugural events,” McNair said. “It is humbling for me, as Tuskegee University’s president, to witness the overwhelming support of those with such historical ties to the university extend their enduring loyalty to Tuskegee in such a meaningful way.”

As members of the Inaugural Host Committee, Richie, Jarrett and others will help increase awareness of the university’s inaugural activities, secure corporate sponsorships for the president’s March 16 fundraising gala, and build support for McNair’s $1 million “Campaign for Leadership and Excellence,” which seeks to increase funding for student scholarships.

Richie, a native of Tuskegee, Alabama, graduated from Tuskegee with an economics degree in 1974 before becoming the international superstar that he is now known to be. Richie has a discography of albums and singles that are second to none. His music is part of the fabric of pop music; in fact, Richie is one of only two songwriters in history to achieve the honor of having No. 1 records for nine consecutive years. With more than 100 million albums sold worldwide, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, 16 American Music Awards, and the distinction of MusicCares person of the year in 2016, he is a true music icon.

In addition to receiving an honorary degree in music from Tuskegee, Richie has been honored with both a Hand and Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theaters as well as a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award, a UNCF Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honors Award, induction into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences’ Governors Award — just to name a few.

A lawyer, businesswoman and public servant, Jarrett’s Tuskegee roots trace back to her great-grandfather, famed university architect Robert R. Taylor, the namesake of the university’s School of Architecture and Construction Science. She was the longest-serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama. She oversaw the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls. Before joining the White House, she served as CEO of The Habitat Company in Chicago, chair of the Chicago Transit Board, commissioner of Planning and Development, and deputy chief of staff for Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

She shares her perspectives of government service, equality for women and girls, civil rights, and criminal justice system reform in her book, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward,” scheduled for release this April. Jarrett has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, including Time’s “100 Most Influential People.” She earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. She is currently a senior adviser to the Obama Foundation and a senior distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.

Other members of the Inaugural Host Committee include:

Ms. Norma Clayton
First Vice Chair, Tuskegee University Board of Trustees and
Retired Vice President, Learning, Training and Development
The Boeing Company
St. Louis, Missouri

Mr. Gene Dibble
Tuskegee native and descendant of Eugene Dibble, past director of John A. Andrews Hospital
Kastner’s Garage
Los Angeles, California

Dr. Matthew Jenkins ’57 (past acting president) and Mrs. Roberta Jenkins ’58
Matthew and Roberta Jenkins Family Foundation
Long Beach, California

Dr. Lonnie Johnson ’73
Founder, Johnson Research & Development
Atlanta, Georgia

Mr. Robert Long
Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer
The Coca-Cola Company
Atlanta, Georgia

Mr. John E. Page, Esq.
Chair, Tuskegee University Board of Trustees and
Senior Corporate Vice President, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility and Legal Officer
Golden State Foods Corp.
Irvine, California

Dr. Sonjia Parker Redmond ’68
Retired Higher Education Administrator
Oakland, California

Mr. Felker Ward Jr. ’53, Esq.
Trustee Emeritus, Tuskegee University Board of Trustees and
Chairman, Pinnacle Investment Advisors
Atlanta, Georgia

Rev. Dr. William Winston ’67
Founder and Senior Pastor
Living Word Christian Center
Forest Park, Illinois

Information about the university’s inaugural-week events — as well as event sponsorships and how to contribute to the “Campaign for Leadership and Excellence” — is online at

© 2019, Tuskegee University