Def Jam co-founder, philanthropist to speak at CLU convocation

Time flies, as the saying goes. Case in point: Graduation from the various Claremont Colleges will take place this coming week.

As always, the prestigious local schools have lined up a varied and fascinating slate of commencement speakers. The newest of these, Claremont Lincoln University—which nurtures future leaders skilled in fostering interfaith cooperation—is no exception. 

The CLU convocation, which is set for Tuesday, May 20 at 4 p.m., will feature hip hop magnate Russell Simmons as keynote speaker. He will also be awarded an honorary doctoral degree.

Mr. Simmons co-founded the influential hip hop music label Def Jam, which has released music by hip hop pioneers like Public Enemy, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Warren G as well as the metal group Slayer.

Mr. Simmons also created the fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture and American Classics. Noted as one of the wealthiest people in hip hop, he is involved in philanthropic efforts around the world.

Mr. Simmons, a longtime vegan, is deeply involved with supporting the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and is co-chair of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a nonprofit aimed at harnessing the cultural relevance of hip hop music to serve as a catalyst for education advocacy and youth empowerment.

Along with his famous brothers Rev Run of Run-DMC and painter Daniel Simmons, he is the founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF). The foundation helps fund nonprofit organizations that provide arts and education to New York City youth. He has also donated time to the Doe Fund, which is aimed at breaking the cycles of homelessness, addiction and criminal recidivism.

 “I want to contribute more to earth than I take away from it,” Mr. Simmons has said. 

With this in mind, he has shown support for campaigns against child abuse, AIDS, human trafficking, hunger, unemployment and cancer and for the promotion of marriage equality and environmentalism.

He has written widely about ethical business practices, including co-authoring the books Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success (2008); Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All, which espouses giving as a lifestyle choice; and Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple.

 “We’re incredibly excited to have such an important and influential world figure coming to speak at our convocation,” CLU President Jerry Campbell said in a recent release. “Russell Simmons has dedicated his life to bringing people together, and I know his message will resonate with everyone.”

The Claremont Lincoln convocation will be held at Garrison Theater, 231 E. 10th St. in Claremont. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

Preference will be given to graduating students and their guests, Claremont Lincoln Consortium members (Claremont School of Theology, Bayan Claremont, Academy for Jewish Religion, California, University of the West and the CLU Centers for Jain, Sikh and South Asian traditions) as well as all of the Claremont Colleges.

You can RSVP on the school’s website, For information, email

—Sarah Torribio


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