Harvard University has named Rihanna as their 2017 Humanitarian of the Year. In honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes, the award recognizes “prominent public-spirited leaders.” Past honorees include James Earl Jones, Kofi Annan, and Malala Yousafzai. Rihanna’s recognition is due to her extensive charitable work.
S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, specifically pointed out the following commendable efforts by the singer:
- She built a state-of-the-art breast cancer center in Barbados.
- In 2012, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program (named after her grandparents) for needy students from Caribbean countries attending college in the U.S.
- She helps support the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project—organizations that bring education access to children in developing countries, especially girls.
Additionally, Rihanna has been a supporter of more than a dozen other charities, including UNICEF, Raising Malawi, and MusiCares. Rihanna was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados in 1988. She turned to music in large part to escape difficulties at home. At age 15, her girl group got an audition with music producer Evan Rodgers when he was visiting Barbados. Rodgers was captivated by Rihanna and less than a year later, she was living with him and his wife in Connecticut working on a demo album. Her first single was released in 2005 and over the next several years, she became an international star. She has sold over 200 million records and has had a string of #1 hits, including Umbrella, Only Girl (In the World), and We Found Love.
The Harvard honor may be surprising to many of Rihanna’s fans. She’s well known for both her success as an artist and for some of the drama in her personal life, but she’s kept a pretty low profile as a philanthropist. When she launched the Clara Lionel Scholarship, she humbly told USA Today, “I am thrilled to be able to do this.” She hasn’t been shouting from the rooftops all the charitable work she’s done, but she has built an impressive resume of good work helping people around the globe. Without question, the singer deserves this honor. She has quietly put in the Work and now deserves to Take a Bow.
Rihanna will accept the award during a ceremony at Harvard on February 28.