SIU-C Bestows Honorary Doctorate to Actor Richard Roundtree

May 11, 2018

A longtime film and television star is back at SIU-Carbondale this weekend to receive an honorary degree.

Richard Roundtree - who came to fame as the first black action hero in his portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the 1971 film  Shaft - will receive a Doctorate of Performing Arts during commencement exercises Saturday, May 12.

Roundtree says he wishes his late grandmother was here to see this because she stressed the importance of education.
"Now, I'm a doctor, hey! It's going to be on my front door when anyone comes to visit me...Dr. Roundtree...hey, hey, hey!"
The 75-year-old says his advice for this year's graduates is realize what they've accomplished in earning their degrees.
"Keep it moving forward. Be inquisitive and question everything. Let no one dictate who you are and who you will become."

Despite his accomplishments as an actor, Roundtree his biggest achievement is surviving breast cancer after being diagnosed in 1993. He says it turned out to be a blessing because he was able to save some men's lives by becoming an advocate.

"I used to be on the board of Susan G. Komen (Foundation) for a couple of years and spoke around the country. (It was) very rewarding. I enjoyed it because breast cancer is not gender specific. A large portion of the population is not aware of that. So, it's an eye opener."

Roundtree's filmography also includes Roots, City Heat, and what he calls his proudest performance in Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored.