Stevie Wonder to Speak at Commencement


In addition to being awarded an honorary degree at Fordham University, Stevie Wonder will speak at the university’s 178th annual commencement ceremony.

In the announcement of Wonder’s degrees, Fordham News claimed that Wonder “will offer the Class of 2023 some words of heartfelt gratitude to be counted among its members.” President Tania Tetlow also offered words of excitement about Wonder’s acceptance into the Fordham community.

“It is an honor and a thrill to welcome Stevie Wonder to Fordham,” said Tetlow to Fordham News. “His music has charmed us, consoled us, elevated us, and entertained us for more than six decades. He is a shining example of an artist’s ability to stir the soul.”

Wonder, an American singer-songwriter, is considered a pioneer in the music industry, specifically in the soul and R&B genre. Many credit his use of synthesizers in mainstream music as one of his career’s most defining aspects.

Wonder is also known for his music, with his most famous songs being the 1972 hit “Superstition,” 1973’s “Living for The City” and 1976’s “As.”

However, despite Wonder’s fame coming later in his professional career, he started at a very young age. He was considered a child prodigy, learning to play the drums, piano and harmonica by age nine. He originally released his first album at age 12 in the 1960s. In fact, his name, Stevie Wonder, came from his early days in the music industry. Born Stevland Hardaway Morris, he was given the nickname Stevie Wonder by Berry Gordy Jr., the president of Motown Records, when he was just a child. Stevie Wonder then blossomed into his professional name.

During his career, Wonder has been the recipient of many musical awards. He won 25 Grammy awards between 1973 and 2010. In 1996, he also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1984, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2002, Wonder found a home in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Continuing his award tour, in 2004, he was awarded the Johnny Mercer Award in recognition of a lifetime full of excellent work.

A portion of Wonder’s fame also stems from his advocacy and philanthropic work that he has done. He was born blind and has become a symbol within the community. He was honored by the United States President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and Junior Blind of America for his philanthropic contributions to the community. However, his charitable actions are not just limited to the blind community. He has performed songs to benefit people with AIDS, disabilities, cancer, hunger, homelessness and domestic abuse. In 2009, he was made a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations, specifically targeting people with disabilities. Messengers of Peace are bestowed by the U.N. Secretary-General, making it a declaration of the highest honor.

Due to his charity work, Wonder has also been involved in political, social-justice initiatives. Most notably, he spearheaded the movement to nationally recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 2014, Wonder was also honored in the United States by President Barack Obama. He was one of the 18 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“For more than 50 years, Stevie has channeled his inner visions into messages of hope, healing and becoming one of the most influential musicians in American history. A musical prodigy. An electrifying voice,” said Obama in the ceremony about Wonder.

In the past, Wonder has been a recipient of an honorary degree at Wayne State University in 2022.

Prior to that, he received an honorary degree from Northwestern University in 2014. In 2011, he was honored with an honorary degree from Tulane. He was also given one in 1978 from Howard University.