FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 06/02/97
Contact: Carol Selkin, Director,
Public Information/Editorial Services
Cal State L.A. and CSU Award Honorary Doctorates to Billie Jean King and Michael Feinstein
Los Angeles, California -- June 2, 1997 -- The 50th Commencement exercises at California State University, Los Angeles on June 14, will feature the conferral of honorary doctorates by Cal State L.A. President James M. Rosser and the Trustees of the California State University on two individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to American life, to the CSU and to Cal State L.A.-- pianist Michael Feinstein and alumna Billie Jean King.
Only four other honorary doctorates have been awarded by Cal State L.A. through the CSU. In 1990, alumnus Jaime Escalante was so honored; in 1995, honorary doctorates were awarded to alumnus Billy Barty and, posthumously, to CSU Trustee Claudia Hampton.
Commencement exercises will be held in the Athletic Stadium beginning at 8:15 a.m. on June 14. For more information, call the Cal State L.A. Public Affairs Office at (323) 343-3050.
Billie Jean King
The kickoff of the University's year-long 50th anniversary celebration brings an honored alumna back to campus. Cal State L.A. alumna Billie Jean King will receive the California State University/California State University, Los Angeles honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of her many achievements in the world arena of athletics and for the distinction those accomplishments have brought to her alma mater.
King, who attended the University from 1961 to 1964, is widely recognized as one of the top ten women in the history of athletics. In 1962, when she was 18 years old, King upset the world's leading women's tennis player at Wimbledon and went on to garner that honor herself--she was the number one-ranked women's tennis player in the world no less than five times between 1966 and 1972, and was ranked in the top ten in the world for a total of 17 years.
King won the prestigious Wimbledon title 20 times and the U.S. crown 5 times. (In 1967, she won the triple crown of singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the British and American championships, becoming the first woman since 1939 to achieve this distinction.)
King's pursuit of gender equity in tennis, in athletics, in politics and in society at large is legendary. A founding member of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and both the professional and recreational leagues of World Teamtennis, her outspoken support for better treatment of women tennis players was instrumental in increasing the popularity of women's tennis world-wide. Her advocacy for athletics forums in which men and women compete against each other "on a level playing field" led to the development of World Teamtennis, a model program that has been used in other sports.
King was made a charter member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame in 1995, in 1994 she was honored with the March of Dimes Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1990, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and, that year, a special issue of Life Magazine named her one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century."
She is active in numerous charitable organizations, serving on the Board of Directors for the National AIDS Fund, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and as national ambassador for A.I.M.--a charity for handicapped children. As a member of the board of trustees of the Women's Sports Foundation, she has helped influence the participation of girls and women in athletics and emphasize the importance of exercise and nutrition for all women. She has been active in her support and fund-raising activities for numerous CSU campuses.
The late Arthur Ashe has described Billie Jean King as "the most important tennis player, male or female, of the last fifty years," and called her "rare in combining unquestionable brilliance and success as a tennis player with the passion of a crusader for justice."
A student and proponent of American popular vocal music, pianist and vocalist Michael Feinstein has devoted his life to the study of the classic American song--an art form that reflects the exciting variety and inclusivity of the people of this country.
Feinstein's dedication to the perpetuation of this aspect of American culture began at a very early age, and is no less remarkable because it is self-taught. His education in this area was further enhanced by his apprenticeship to Ira Gershwin, whom Feinstein assisted until his mentor's death in 1983. Feinstein's published contributions to the body of American musicology and music history are numerous and widely praised, and include his autobiography, which has been called "a personal and revealing look at the golden age of American popular song and musical theater."
Feinstein has been called "a remarkable performance talent" by London's Punch and "A phenomenon!" by the New Yorker magazine. The Los Angeles Times has called him "brilliant," his piano and vocal performance "the stuff of legend." According to the New York Times, "as long as it has friends and exponents like Michael Feinstein, the American musical theatre will survive." The San Francisco Chronicle has called him "surely our greatest ambassador to that golden realm in which classic American popular music dwells." Time magazine has said, "There is no other singer quite like Feinstein. He not only understands the lyrics, but makes them sound as if they are being sung for the first time."
Michael Feinstein's contribution to educational institutions has been consistent over many years. His affiliation with Cal State L.A. has resulted both directly and indirectly in the development of numerous music scholarships and programs, including the George and Ira Gershwin Scholarship, the Harry Warren Foundation, the Michael Feinstein Scholarship and Competition, and others. A concert he performed for the benefit of Cal State L.A. in 1990 resulted in major support that continues today, both in terms of funds and friends for the University.
On June 14, California State University and California State University, Los Angeles, will confer upon Michael Feinstein the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts in recognition of his achievements and dedication to the perpetuation of American music, and his support of and advocacy for California State University, Los Angeles.