Huntsville, AL: Oakwood University presents its 30th Annual UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Gala, Thursday, March 20, 2008, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the South Hall of the Von Braun Center. The theme for the occasion is “Salute to Education.” Featured speakers for the event are actor and author, Hill Harper, and actress, Tonea “Tommie” H. Stewart.
Harper, an accomplished film, television and stage actor, stars in the hit CBS drama series, CSI: NY, where he portrays Dr. Sheldon Hawkes, a reclusive coroner who walked away from a promising surgical career after the traumatic loss of two patients. Harper also starred in the movie, Constellation, filmed in Huntsville. Constellation director, Jordan Walker-Perlman, is expected to return to Huntsville to join Harper at the March 20 UNCF event.
Prior to CSI: NY, Harper co-starred as an ambitious undercover FBI operative on the CBS series, The Handler, alongside Emmy Award nominee, Joe Pantoliano. The role earned him a 2004 Golden Satellite Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He has also been recognized by the NAACP Image Awards with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the CBS series, City of Angels. Harper received critical acclaim for his performance in the independent film, The Visit, also directed by Walker-Pearlman, which tells the story of two brothers who are forced to come together when the younger sibling (played by Harper), who is HIV positive, is sentenced to death row for a crime he seemingly did not commit. His performance, which Daily Variety called "riveting," earned him a Best Actor nomination by the Independent Spirit Awards. He re-teamed with Walker-Pearlman for the independent film, Constellation, which chronicled the lives and loves of a family in the Deep South.
His other film roles are numerous. Among his screen credits are Loving Jezebel, The Nephew (with Pierce Brosnan), The Skulls (with Joshua Jackson), In Too Deep (with Omar Epps, L.L. Cool J and Nia Long), Beloved, Hav' Plenty, He Got Game (with Denzel Washington), and Get on the Bus. Other films include Zooman (with Louis Gossett Jr., Charles S. Dutton and CCH Pounder), Full Court Press (with Ellen Burstyn and Taye Diggs), and One Red Rose, which he also co-wrote, for Showtime. He is also set to appear in the soon-to-be-released film, Mama, I Want to Sing, which also stars Ciara, Billy Zane, Lynn Whitfield, Ben Vereen, and Patti LaBelle.
He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduated with a J.D. (cum laude) from Harvard Law School (where he was a classmate of Sen. Barrack Obama), as well as with a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government. Harper is also an accomplished writer and is the author of the critically-acclaimed book, Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny, which won the American Library Association’s 2007 prize for Best Book for Young Adults.
An acclaimed actress in her own right, Stewart also currently serves as chair of the Department of Theater Arts at Alabama State University. Best known for her role as Aunt Etta in the television series, In the Heat of the Night, she has appeared in numerous television shows and movies. Her TV credits include guest starring roles in Touched by an Angel; Walker, Texas Ranger; ER; and Matlock. Stewart appeared alongside Harper in the film, Constellation, in the role of “Reverend.” Other film roles have included The Rosa Parks Story, A Time to Kill, Mississippi Burning, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, Stewart is a former high school teacher and also taught speech at Jackson State University before joining the faculty of Alabama State. She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
Monies raised from the UNCF gala go directly toward the financial assistance of UNCF students, and toward providing technical assistance to UNCF member institutions. Tickets for the Gala are now on sale and may be purchased from Oakwood University, 7000 Adventist Blvd., NW, East Hall, or by calling 256.726.7124.
Founded in 1944, the United Negro College Fund is a consortium of 38 private, accredited, historically black colleges and universities, which include Oakwood University. Since its inception, UNCF has raised $2.3 billion to support its member institutions, which now enroll more than 60,000 men and women. The organization’s goal is to ensure that America’s youth will continue to have access to high quality, affordable education in a unique environment that continues to produce successful graduates. It has grown to become the nation’s oldest and most successful minority higher education assistance organization.
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