Concert and opera singer Jessye Norman will receive the Radcliffe Medal from the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) on Friday, June 6, at the RCAA’s annual luncheon in Radcliffe Yard. The annual award honors individuals whose lives and work have had a significant impact on society.
Whether portraying operatic heroines, interpreting lieder, or appearing with the world’s premier orchestras and conductors, Norman is recognized worldwide for her artistry. Norman, whose repertoire ranges from the baroque to the contemporary, is cited for the integrity of her performances, which The New York Times termed “a catalogue of all that is virtuous in singing.”
Several international events have served as platforms for her performances, including the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989, where she sang “La Marseillaise,” the finale of the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, and the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton in January.
Norman has received many prestigious awards and distinctions, including honorary doctorates from 28 colleges, universities, and conservatories around the world. In 1984, the French Government invested her with the title of Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris named an orchid for her.
In 1989, she was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Mitterrand and in 1990, she was named honorary ambassador to the United Nations by U.N. Secretary General Xavier Perez de Cuellar. Norman was also the winner of an Ace Award from the National Academy of Cable Programming for Jessye Norman at Notre Dame.
One of the most prolific recording artists of our day, Norman has earned Grammy Awards for Songs of Maurice Ravel, as well as Lohengrin and Die Walkure by Richard Wagner. Other awards include the Paris Grand Prix National du Disque for collections of lieder by Wagner, Schumann, Mahler, and Schubert.
Born in Augusta, Ga., she received her education at Howard University in Washington, D.C., the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
In addition to performing, Norman serves on the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation, the National Music Foundation, City-Meals-on-Wheels in New York City, and the New York Botanical Garden. She is also the national spokesperson for the Partnership for the Homeless and the Lupus Foundation, and is a member of the board of trustees of Paine College in her hometown.
Norman resides in New York State.
Previous recipients of the Radcliffe Medal include entertainer Lena Horne (1987), television journalist Jane Pauley (1988), Radcliffe College President Emerita Matina Souretis Horner (1989), Children’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman (1989), marine scientist Sylvia Alice Earle (1990), Harvard University President Emeritus Derek C. Bok (1991), writer Alice Walker (1992), American Red Cross president Elizabeth H. Dole (1993), former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (1994), national correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault (1995), and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (1996).