Turning talent into service - Orville “Shaggy” Burrell receives PHD

What inspired members of the Brown University Class of 2020 to return to College Hill, put on a cap and gown, and march down College Hill to the First Baptist Church in America to celebrate with classmates — 802 days after COVID-19 forced an abrupt campus departure?

Among the weekend’s highlights was an honorary degree oration from pioneering songwriter and reggae superstar Orville “Shaggy” Burrell. Shaggy chronicled his journey from Rae Town, a small fishing village in Kingston, Jamaica, to the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, to two tours of duty in the Middle East as a U.S. Marine, to his music career as a chart-topping hitmaker.

While the G.I. Bill's education benefit was a major motivator for enlisting in the Marines, the honorary degree he received at Brown marked his first college degree. But the military became his college, Shaggy said. “I felt like I belonged to something — an institution,” he told the graduates on Saturday. “Every time someone came up to me and said, ‘thank you for your service,’ I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, as if I actually graduated.”

He recalled 18-hour weekend drives as he journeyed between his base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to Brooklyn and back, all so he could record songs at a studio in New York. To make a name for himself as a Caribbean performing artist, he had to work 10 times harder and make music 10 times better, he said. A stern sit-down with godfather of soul James Brown as Shaggy toured after his early hits helped him connect his talent — the one thing nobody could ever take away, Brown told him — with the commitment to service he’d developed as a Marine.

Read the full story at https://www.brown.edu/news/2022-05-28/undergrad-2020