Lionel Richie to Receive 2011 Harvard Foundation Peter J. Gomes Award

Famous musician and philanthropist Lionel Richie will be visiting Harvard on Monday to receive the 2011 Harvard Foundation Peter J. Gomes Award.

The reception, which we be held in Kirkland House, will highlight Richie’s humanitarian efforts over the past few decades.

“Lionel Richie has been very active in humanitarian causes,” said S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation. “It is an honor for us to have him here.”

The humanitarian award has been given annually for more than 30 years.

The award honors the life and work of Reverend Peter J. Gomes, who died this past February.

Each year, students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation nominate and vote for the recipient. The Foundation strives to honor individuals whose work has improved the quality of life of others and inspired the world, according to the Harvard Foundation’s press release.

Past years have honored Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, actor James Earl Jones, and Dolores C. Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, among others.

Richie was chosen because of his musical genius and his humanitarian work, according to the release. Some of his accomplishments include co-writing the song “We Are the World” with the late Michael Jackson to benefit hunger victims in Africa. It was later used to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. He has also served as an advocate for breast cancer research.

Richie is expected to arrive on campus Dec. 5. He will visit Memorial Church, where he will speak with students and members of the church staff, Counter said.

Then Richie will head to Kirkland House to attend a reception. Finally, he will attend a dinner and ceremony where he will receive the award.

“The students from the Harvard Foundation will pay tribute to his life’s humanitarian work,” Counter said.

This tribute will include a number of performances by Harvard students.

“I am excited to see the ways in which Mr. Richie appreciates the performances of cultural student groups and what he has to say during the question and answer portion of our dinner,” Abdul A. Ly ’13, co-director of the event and a Harvard Foundation intern, wrote in an email.

Other student interns at the Harvard Foundation said they are excited for Richie’s visit.

“I think it’s a great event. It has been a wonderful opportunity for the Foundation to bring such great individuals to campus,” said Bronwen B. O’Herin ’12, a Harvard Foundation intern. “It is always a great chance to showcase these people.”

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