50@50: FIU honors Latin music icons


To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. In this piece, in honor of the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards airing tonight, we look back at when two Latin music icons were awarded honorary degrees during FIU commencement ceremonies. 

Celia Cruz was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music at FIU's 1992 spring commencement ceremony.

Celia Cruz was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music at FIU’s 1992 spring commencement ceremony.

During the 1990s, FIU awarded honorary degrees to two of the most influential figures in Latin music: Celia Cruz and Emilio Estefan.

At the 1992 Spring Commencement ceremony, Cruz – one of the most recognizable figures in the history of Cuban music – was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music.

Cruz played an instrumental role in modernizing salsa music and introducing the genre to a greater worldwide audience.

President George H.W. Bush, who was also presented with an honorary doctorate during the ceremony, recognized the Cuban music icon in his remarks.“May I also salute my fellow honoree: Celia Cruz, ‘Queen of the Latin American Music’… ‘Doctor of Salsa,’” he said to laughter. “She’s captured the soul of a culture in her music. She asked me where First Lady Barbara Bush was… if she were here – she’s a great Celia admirer – she would give her un grande abrazo like the rest of us do. Celia, congratulations.”

Currently, Telemundo is airing a popular TV series, Celia: La Serie, based on the international salsa sensation’s life. The series chronicles and reenacts Cruz’ rise to fame and her trials and tribulations after leaving Cuba for the United States.

Cruz, a five-time Grammy Award winner known for her hit songs “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” and “Guantanamera,” died in 2003 after a career that spanned five decades.

President Modesto A. Maidique (left) welcomes Emilio Estefan (second from left) to FIU to receive his honorary doctorate degree in business administration at the 1999 Fall Commencement ceremony.

President Modesto A. Maidique (left) welcomes Emilio Estefan (second from left) to FIU to receive his honorary doctorate degree in business administration at the 1999 Fall Commencement ceremony. Photo appears courtesy of the FIU Special Collections and University Archives.

In 1999, the university recognized Cuban-American music producer Estefan with an honorary doctorate degree in business administration for his achievements as an entrepreneur and world-renowned philanthropist.

Estefan and his wife, Gloria, have been in the news in recent weeks. Their love story is the subject of the new Broadway musical On Your Feet! directed by FIU alumnus Andy Señor. They will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony Nov. 24.

The Estefans, one of the most recognizable power couples in the music industry, will be awarded with the nation’s highest civilian honor for their cultural accomplishments in popularizing Latin music around the world, as well as their influence on an entire generation of artists.