Alumnus Carlton Douglas Ridenhour will receive honorary doctorate

Chuck D was the featured speaker at Adelphi’s 117th Commencement. A highlight of his speech was when he told the crowd, “You hear celebrities talk about swagger. Y’all got the real swagger. This is something to swagger with.”


» View his speech in our Commencement Video

Carlton Douglas Ridenhour Chuck D photo by Ernie Paniccioli

Chuck D of Public Enemy

Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli

Adelphi University will confer an honorary doctorate to alumnus Carlton Douglas Ridenhour ’84, better known as Chuck D, the leader of the hip-hop band Public Enemy. Chuck D will receive the degree and give remarks at Adelphi’s 117th Commencement on Sunday, May 19, 2013 as the ceremony’s featured speaker.

A native of Roosevelt, New York, Chuck D attended Adelphi University from 1978–1984, earning his B.F.A. During his time at Adelphi, the University radio station, WBAU, was becoming a hub for the early expansion of the hip-hop movement. Chuck D worked at WBAU, wrote music and deejayed a program that featured the artists who would later go on to form Public Enemy in 1986.

In 1987, Public Enemy released its first album, but it was the band’s second album, 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, that made Public Enemy a household name. The album topped the R & B charts, was hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece and went on to sell more than a million copies. The Village Voice voted It Takes a Nation of Millions the best album of the year in its Pazz & Jop poll.

Public Enemy has continued to record and tour and, in 2012, it issued two albums, Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp and The Evil Empire of Everything. Public Enemy has had three platinum albums, eight gold albums, 12 studio album releases, two compilation albums, 22 singles and five indie albums.

In April 2013, Chuck D, with Public Enemy, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Prior awards and recognitions for Chuck D and Public Enemy include the 2008 TransAfrica Forum Pan-African Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2006 Billboard Founders Award, the Soul Train Music Awards Best Rap Album for Apocalypse ’91…The Enemy Strikes Black and MTV’s Rock the Vote Patrick Lippert Award, which is named for Rock the Vote’s founder, who died in 1993.

Chuck D is an Internet innovator, a best-selling author and a media commentator. On Twitter (@MrChuckD), he has more than 220,000 followers.  He has served as a national spokesperson for Rock the Vote, the National Urban League and the National Alliance of African American Athletes and has appeared in public service announcements for HBO’s campaign for national peace and for the Partnership at, formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. He is a highly sought-after speaker, encouraging young people, especially those who are or may become the first in their families to attend college, to remember the value of their education and share their learning with their families and communities.

Chuck D currently splits his time between Ventura, California, and Roosevelt, New York, and is married to Gaye Theresa Johnson, Ph.D., who teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

For more information and the full day’s program, please contact Adelphi’s Commencement Office at 516.877.4695 or visit

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
Strategic Communications Director 
p – 516.237.8634
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