This Sunday, May 15, at the 98th Commencement exercises at Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence College will present George Wein and Heather Abbott with honorary doctorate degrees.
World-renowned founder/producer of the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and numerous other music events, George Wein is Chairman of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc. As he approaches his 91st birthday (October 3), he has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the iconic Newport Jazz and Folk festivals in 1954 and 1959. His work with those festivals advanced the concept of live music and he went on to produce titled events for Kool, JVC, Mellon Bank, Dunkin’ Donuts, Verizon, Ben & Jerry’s and others.
As a result of his diverse contributions to jazz and world culture, Wein has been honored by heads of state, educational institutions and leading publications. In 2015, Wein took home the GRAMMY® Trustees Award for his outstanding contributions to the music industry. He is an NEA Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate), and in 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and New Englander of the Year from the New England Council. In 2012 Wein was given the APAP Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts for an individual “whose genius, energy and excellence has defined or redefined an art form.” In addition, honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, AARP, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the French Legion d’Honneur, Chile’s Order of Bernardo O’Higgins and other organizations around the world. Wein is also the recipient of honorary degrees from Boston University, the Berklee College of Music, Rhode Island College of Music, Five Towns College and North Carolina Central. He is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and a member of the Board of Trustees at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
In addition to his work as a producer, George Wein is an accomplished jazz pianist, whose group, Newport All-Stars, has toured around the world and has featured some of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz.
Wein’s autobiography, MyselfAmongOthers:ALifeinMusic (DaCapo Press), was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as 2004’s best book about jazz. In addition to his life in jazz, Mr. Wein has a long history of involvement with philanthropy and the arts, including the establishment of the Joyce and George Wein Chair of African American Studies at Boston University, the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College and an annual artist prize given through the Studio Museum in Harlem in honor of his late wife and business partner, Joyce Alexander Wein.
Heather Abbott will present the commencement address in addition to her Honorary Doctorate.
On April 15, 2013, what is referred to as Marathon Monday in Boston, Heather Abbott of Newport, RI set out on an annual tradition with six friends. They would attend the Red Sox game, followed by a walk over to the finish line to watch the runners. Abbott would never have dreamed this day would change her life forever.
Abbott was struck by shrapnel from the second of the two bombs, severely injuring her left foot. Strangers Matt Chatham, former New England Patriots lineman, and his wife, Erin, carried her to safety.
After three surgeries in four days, Abbott was faced with an agonizing decision – should she try and save her left foot or amputate her leg below the knee. With the help of other amputees, and the support from thousands around the country, Abbott made the difficult decision, at the age of 38, to live her life as an amputee.
Her recovery, as it is for many, was a journey through pain, anger, optimism, challenge and resilience. A significant part of her recovery was her support network – the friends, family and strangers who sent her well-wishes, the fellow amputees who helped her transition and the custom prostheses that allowed her to live her life as before.
Through insurance and donations, Abbott was given four different prosthetic legs. Just months after the bombing, she was living independently and resuming the activities she loves, including stand up paddle boarding, running and wearing high heels.
Abbott has remained a model of strength and resilience and is determined to help other victims of limb loss. She is a certified Peer Counselor for the American Amputee Coalition and is helping other amputees adjust to their “new normal,” as others helped her.
By starting the Heather Abbott Foundation, she has another chance to continue to pay it forward for all amputees. Heather Abbott has recently been awarded the following: the 2014 Orthopedic Association’s Spirit of an Active Lifestyle Award, an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Framingham State University in 2015, the Stonehill College President’s Excellence Award in 2015 and the 2015 Providence Business News Woman to Watch.
Celebrate George Wein’s life-long dedication to music at the Newport Folk Festival July 22-24, and the Newport Jazz Festival July 29-31. For more information, go to www.newportfestivalsfoundation.org.