Celebrities earn honorary degrees from UMES
Students work at annual fundraiser for scholarship fund
|Marilyn McCoo, of the 5th Dimension musical group, receives an academic hood during the UMES Gala at the college c ampus in Princess Anne. / AMANDA RIPPEN WHITE/THE DAILY TIMES
PRINCESS ANNE -- (March 4, 2012) -- Five celebrity guests were recognized for their public service and career accomplishments in a brief ceremony that kicked off the UMES Gala on Saturday night.
But the big excitement came immediately after the event when former 5th Dimension lead singers Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo -- still wearing academic robes -- joined in with members of the UMES Gospel Choir in an a capella version of "Stone Soul Picnic."
McCoo said their trip to Maryland's Eastern Shore is a first. But the couple, who have been married for 40 years, are longtime supporters of the United Negro College Fund, or UNCF, an organization of private, historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. UMES is a public historically black university.
"It is an honor to have been chosen to receive an honorary doctorate degree," McCoo said. "I am impressed with the history of the university. We have been involved with UNCF since the 5th Dimension years. I know UMES is a public university, but we appreciate what (HBCUs) stand for."
McCoo and Davis received Doctor of Humane Letters degrees, as did actress S. Epatha Merkerson, known for her role as Lt. Anita Van Buren on TV's "Law & Order," and former CNN host Larry King.
Actress Tippi Hedren, known for her roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, "The Birds" and "Marnie," was awarded the honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for her longtime commitment to humanitarian, environmental and animal conservation causes.
This year's event -- which had the theme of "Lights, Camera, Action!" -- involved about 200 students working before and during the event, which raised money for the university's scholarship fund.
Last year's gala raised about $250,000.
Guests at the gala munched on 13 different hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour and placed bids on silent auction items.
Dinner in the Student Services Center ballroom included cream of collard soup, champagne lobster salad, mushroom-stuffed filet mignon with a curried seafood cup and corn pudding, blackberry-lemon tart with raspberry sauce and wine.
All of the food was prepared by students in the Department of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Other students, such as the members of the Gospel Choir, gave musical and theatrical performances. Honors Program members were on hand to greet guests and work at the auctions.
This article and accompanying photograph originally appeared in The (Salisbury, MD) Daily Times, a corporate sponsor of the 2012 UMES celebrity Gala, and is reproduced with permission.