Rihanna Will ‘Take a Bow’ as Humanitarian of the Year

Singer, songwriter, and actress Rihanna will receive the Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year award, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations announced Wednesday.

Known for chart-toppers like “Umbrella,” “Work,” and “Disturbia,” Rihanna has also worked with organizations to promote access to education for children in developing countries. In 2012, she founded the nonprofit Clara Lionel Foundation to honor her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. She became the Global Ambassador for the Global Partnership in Education in 2016.

Rihanna will be honored on Feb. 28 at a ceremony in Sanders Theatre. Tickets will be available beginning at noon that day.

“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” Counter wrote in a press release. “It is for these philanthropic initiatives and other acts of compassionate sharing that the students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation chose to honor Rihanna with the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award.”

The Harvard Foundation presents the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year to recognize “prominent public-spirited leaders each year in honor of the late Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes,” according to a press release from the Foundation. Gomes was the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister at Memorial Church for over three decades.


Last year, the selection of Myanmar leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi drew criticism from some Muslim students at Harvard for her perceived silence toward the country’s Muslim minority. Her lecture occurred as planned with a few protesters standing silently outside the event.

Rihanna joins a collection of Humanitarian of the Year honorees that include activists, entertainers, politicians, and scientists. In previous years, Kailash Satyarthi, Malala Yousafzai, Dolores Huerta, James Earl Jones, and Ban Ki-Moon have received the award.

—Staff writer Kenton K. Shimozaki can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @KentonShimozaki.