The legendary songstress, humanitarian and entrepreneur Patti LaBelle, a Philadelphia native with a worldwide reputation, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Temple University during its 123rd Commencement Ceremony on May 13 in the Liacouras Center.
“Patti LaBelle has led a life of incredible achievement in the performing and recording industries. She has used her status as a public figure to bring attention to serious health issues, helping to save countless lives,” said Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart. “We are delighted to honor this native Philadelphian for her professional excellence and her selfless service to others.”
LaBelle, known especially for her music, is also a dedicated humanitarian who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about cancer, AIDS and diabetes, among other issues, serving as a spokesperson for the American Diabetic and Dietetic Associations, the National Cancer Institute and the National Minority AIDS Council.
LaBelle’s work on cancer and diabetes is rooted in her own family history. Within a 10-year period, she lost her mother, three sisters and best friend to the diseases. In 1994, LaBelle herself was diagnosed with diabetes and shortly thereafter became a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association. Two years ago, LaBelle began to partner with Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine to raise awareness about diabetes and the critical need for diabetics to pay special attention to their feet and to get regular screenings by their podiatric physicians.
Labelle was born in Philadelphia and began singing in church at an early age. With her first singing group the Ordettes, she had her first number one hit “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman.” She went on to form Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles in 1963 and ten years later they became the first African-American act to ever appear at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.
After her success with the Bluebelles, Labelle pursued a solo career spanning three decades. Upon signing with the Philadelphia International label, in 1983 she released her “I’m in Love Again” album which featured her first No. 1 R&B hit, “If Only You Knew.”
LaBelle has received numerous honors for both her music and her humanitarian work, including the National Urban League’s Humanitarian Award; the United Negro College Fund’s Award of Excellence; two Grammy Awards; seven NAACP Image Awards; three Emmy nominations; two American Music Awards and several honorary degrees. Hers is the only star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that was paid for entirely by fans. She’s the author of four books, including three New York Times bestsellers: Don’t Block the Blessings, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, Patti’s Pearls and Patti LaBelle’s Lite Cuisine