John Mellencamp to speak at IUB commencement
April 18, 2000
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- John Mellencamp will give the commencement address at Indiana University Bloomington during its 171st commencement exercises on May 6. IU will confer an honorary Doctor of Music degree on the popular musician, who has made such a significant impact on our contemporary culture.
Mellencamp will address graduates and receive his degree in a 10 a.m. ceremony at IU's Memorial Stadium, weather permitting. In case of severe weather, commencement will be conducted in two sessions in IU's Assembly Hall.
The degree honors Mellencamp's achievement of excellence in his field, his philanthropic activities, and his deep roots in the community.
Mellencamp, a native of Seymour, Ind., also is a member of the President's Circle, the Hoosier Hundred and the IU Alumni Association. He has donated a portion of the proceeds from two recent concerts to the IU Student Foundation for scholarships. The Mellencamp Pavilion, a practice facility used by university athletes, is one tangible testament to his affection for IU. Many of his other considerable philanthropic deeds in the community where he resides have gone largely unpublicized.
Throughout a career that has generated 37 gold, platinum and multi-platinum records, a Grammy Award and 12 other Grammy Award nominations, as well as sold-out concert tours, Mellencamp often has effectively used his music to offer comment on social issues and to pioneer new musical frontiers.
An early Top Ten hit on his 1984 album Uh Huh, "Pink Houses," shed light on the challenges and frustrations facing working people and became an anthem for them. His follow-up album in 1985, Scarecrow, fused folk sounds with rock and roll to give voice and dignity to the family farmers of Indiana and America. That same year, he helped launch Farm Aid, an annual concert event which raises money for family farms, a cause to which he remains devoted today.
Anthony DeCurtis, former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said, "Mellencamp has created an important body of work that has earned him both critical regard and an enormous audience. His songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music."
Mellencamp's popularity soared with 1987's The Lonesome Jubilee, backed by what many critics considered the world's best rock band. Mellencamp's universal critical acclaim and popularity have continued to soar throughout three decades, and he remains a major force in the music world. He continues to write and record music, including 1998's self-titled John Mellencamp and 1999's Rough Harvest, an album of acoustic versions of his and other artists' songs.
Mellencamp's creative impulse also finds expression outside of music-making. In 1992, he made his big-screen debut starring in the film Falling from Grace, which he also directed. He gained prominence as a painter throughout the 1990s, and his works have been featured in several major exhibitions at locations around the nation and in the 1998 book, Mellencamp: Paintings and Reflections. All profits from sales of the book go to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which supports school music programs, another of Mellencamp's philanthropic causes. In 1991, he received the Nordhoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award for his involvement with music therapy for handicapped and autistic children.
For these and other reasons, Mellencamp is thought of by many as The Voice of the American Heartland.
IU will confer seven other honorary degrees during three different campus commencement ceremonies in early May:
Bloomington: Thomas M. Lofton, chairman of the board of directors of Lilly Endowment Inc., Doctor of Laws; William G. Mays, founder of Mays Chemical Co. and publisher of The Indianapolis Recorder, Doctor of Science; and Flerida Ruth P. Romero, retired Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Doctor of Laws.
Indianapolis: Mari Evans, the internationally recognized poet, playwright, educator, essayist and producer, Doctor of Humane Letters; Robert L. Payton, founding director of the IU Center on Philanthropy, Doctor of Humane Letters; and Amara Raksasataya, a scholar and public servant in Thailand, Doctor of Laws.
East: Charles A. Combopiano, founder of Richmond's Whitewater Opera Company, Doctor of Music.
The daily schedule of commencement observances will begin May 6 in Bloomington. The other commencements are: Southeast (IUS) -- 7 p.m. May 8 in the IUS Amphitheater near New Albany; Kokomo (IUK) -- 1:30 p.m. May 9 on the IUK campus; South Bend (IUSB) -- 7 p.m. May 9 in Notre Dame's Joyce Center; Fort Wayne (IPFW) -- 7 p.m. May 10 in the Fort Wayne Coliseum; Northwest (IUN) -- 5 p.m. May 11 in the Merillville Star Plaza Theater; East (IUE) -- 6 p.m. May 12 in Richmond's Tiernan Center; and Indianapolis (IUPUI) -- 3 p.m. May 14 in the RCA Dome.
(JT. Forbes, 812-855-7201, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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