Charles S. Dutton, actor, director and inspirational speaker, will be the keynote speaker of the University of the Virgin Islands 2014 Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series. He will speak on the topic: "From Jail to Yale," a personal story reflecting his journey from the Maryland prison system to an award-nominated actor educated at Yale University. The lectures are scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on April 9, at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on UVI's St. Thomas campus, and at 6 p.m. on April 10, in the Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. The public is invited to both events, which are free.
"Having Charles Dutton at UVI is a major boost to our theatre program,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “UVI faculty and students have produced numerous outstanding plays and to attract an actor of his caliber will place in front of our students a shining example of excellence in the performing arts."
Dutton’s professional career spans theater, television and film, and he is one of the few actors to earn Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for the same role. He is best known for his starring role in the television sitcom “Roc,” which aired on Fox in the early 1990s. Dutton was also the show’s executive producer. Roc was produced by Home Box Office (HBO). He received several National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award nominations for “Roc.”
In his youth, Dutton, a middle school dropout, was convicted of manslaughter, after a fight which resulted in the death of a man he claimed had attacked him. He spent several years in prison. Several months after his release, Dutton was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon, and sentenced to three years in prison.
A few months into his second prison term, Dutton was sentenced to six days of solitary confinement, which allowed prisoners to select one book. He chose an anthology of black playwrights. Dutton enjoyed the plays so much that, upon his release from confinement, he petitioned the warden to start a drama group for the Christmas talent show. The warden agreed on the condition that Dutton go back to school and get a General Education Development certificate (GED).
While in prison, he earned his GED and completed a two-year college program at Hagerstown Community College. Upon release, he enrolled as a drama major at Towson University. Dutton earned a master's degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama.
“The true life story on Charles Dutton is not to be missed,” said UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne V. Jackson. “We at the University of the Virgin Islands strive to bring impactful and relevant speakers through the Alfred O. Heath Lecture Series and Dutton exemplifies this goal. Through his story, our sons and daughters will learn of the importance of life’s choices and know that through hard work and education anything is possible.”
Dutton is known for his role in the films “Rudy” and “Alien 3.” He received multiple Tony award nominations for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The Piano Lesson.” He was also nominated for an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for The Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of “The Piano Lesson.”
He has numerous television credits, including the miniseries “The Murder of Mary Phagan,” “The 60’s,” “Deadlock,” and “Aftershock.” He is a veteran of numerous feature films such as “Menace II Society,” “Rudy,” “A Low Down Dirty Shame,” “Cry, The Beloved Country,” “Nick of Time,” “A Time to Kill,” “Get on the Bus,” “Gothika” and “Secret Window.”
He made his directorial debut in 1997 with the HBO movie “First Time Felon.” He also directed the award-winning HBO miniseries “The Corner,” for which he received a 2001 Best Director Emmy. His feature film directorial debut was the 2004 Paramount movie “Against the Ropes.” In 2006, he directed multiple episodes of the Showtime series “Sleeper Cell,” for which he received a Directors Guild of America Award nomination. Most recently he directed the Lifetime movie “Racing for Time” and the pilot “Under” for A&E.
Dutton will be the honored guest at special fund-raising receptions being held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on April 9, on St. Thomas, and from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 10, at the Research and Technology Park on the Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Tickets for both events are $250. Funds raised will support the male initiative at UVI.
The Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series offers the public a setting in which to hear nationally and internationally recognized individuals discuss issues related to the challenges and opportunities faced by the global community. The series is the University's way of recognizing and celebrating the outstanding person and accomplished citizen that is Dr. Alfred O. Heath. As a UVI trustee emeritus and chair of the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. Heath is an ardent, longtime supporter of the mission of the University.
Last year's series was presented by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., a mentor to U.S. President Barack Obama and attorney to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He spoke about the impact of President Obama's reelection on gun violence in the Virgin Islands. Past presenters of the Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series have included Dr. Hollis R. Lynch, a professor emeritus at Columbia University and one of the world's leading experts on the life and times of Edward Wilmot Blyden, magazine publishing legend Susan L. Taylor, educator and author Dr. Steve Perry, physician and humanitarian Dr. David Walton, renowned poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, award-winning veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author and activist Randall Robinson, Caribbean Development Bank President Dr. Compton Bourne, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives the Hon. Ronald Dellums.
The 2014 Alfred O. Heath Lecture is sponsored by the Department of Labor and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Zeta Xi Chapter is a supporter.For more information about the Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series or the receptions call UVI's Senior Coordinator of Donor Relations and Special Events Liza Margolis at (340) 693-1053.