Speaker Biographies, May 2014
John Legend, C'99
Grammy-award winning songwriter and musician
Founder, Show Me Campaign
John Legend is a nine-time Grammy Award-winning soul artist celebrated as much for his social activism as for his impressive musical talents. The University of Pennsylvania graduate achieved super-stardom with his 2004 platinum-selling CD Get Lifted. At the time a back-up musician and vocalist on recordings by well-known artists such as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, Mr. Legend went on to success in his own right with hit singles such as "Ordinary People," "Heaven," and "Green Light." Known in Penn circles by his birth name, John Stephens, Mr. Legend graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1999 with a degree in English and a concentration in African-American literature and culture. A singer and performer since childhood, he recorded his own albums at Penn, directed the choir of a nearby church, and served as the president and musical director of Counterparts, the University's coed a cappella jazz group. His lead vocals on a Counterparts album earned the group a place on the 1998 Best of Collegiate A Cappella CD. Mr. Legend has used his success to draw attention to causes such as educational disparities and global poverty. He sits on the boards of Teach for America, Stand for Children, and the Harlem Village Academies. He also serves on the Advisory Council for Turnaround and is an "IRC Voice" for the International Rescue Committee. In 2007, he launched the Show Me Campaign, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty by providing access to quality education internationally. His social contributions have been recognized with the 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year award, the 2009 CARE Humanitarian Award for Global Change, Africare's 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, and the 2012 Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award.
Mr. Legend is receiving an honorary Doctor of Music.