a warm gray gradient fades from left to right into a psychedelic gray and black razzle-dazzle swirl pattern that's pinched and distorted at the very right edge of the image.

The Awards

2023 Honorary Degree Recipients

honorary doctor of fine arts candidate deborah willis depicted on a golden-gray gradient. Willis is wearing black velvet suit jacket and a white silk scarf around her neck. she is looking at the viewer with a big smile, her lips lined with crimson color.
Photo credit: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn


Deborah Willis BFA ’75 (Photography), PhD

Deborah Willis BFA ’75 (Photography), PhD, is university professor and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). She is also director of NYU’s Center for Black Visual Culture. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, contemporary women photographers and beauty. Willis is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She has received awards from the College Art Association for Writing Art History in 2021, the Outstanding Service Award from the Royal Photographic Society in the UK and the 2022 Don Tyson Prize for the Advancement of American Art.

Additionally, Willis is the author of The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, among other books. Her curated exhibitions include Home: Reimagining Interiority at YoungArts, Miami; Framing Moments: Photography from the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts; Migrations and Meaning(s) in Art; and Free as they want to be: Artists Committed to Memory at FotoFocus 2022. Most recently, Dr. Willis was named the 2023 Mary Lucille Dauray Artist-inResidence by the Norton Museum of Art.


honorary doctor of fine arts candidates michael forman and jennifer rice against a golden-gray gradient and rippling black and white razzle dazzle texture. the pair is on the right in a sideways embrace. michael is wearing a simple gray suit with a maroon dotted tie and glasses. jennifer is wearing a black dress with golden buttons at the waist.


Michael Forman & Jennifer Rice

Michael Forman is chairman and CEO of FS Investments, an alternative investments asset manager. Michael founded FS in 2007 after a successful career as both a corporate and securities lawyer and a serial entrepreneur. In 2021, Michael co-founded the Forman Arts Initiative (FAI) with his wife, Jennifer Rice. FAI is a platform to connect and support artists and cultural organizations in Philadelphia through programming, exhibition commissions, financial support and advocacy.

Forman’s commitment to the Philadelphia region extends to board service at several institutions, including Drexel University and the Center City District Foundation. He also serves as the founding co-chair of the Philadelphia Equity Alliance. His civic leadership has garnered recognition by the community and his peers, including the 2022 Corporate Leadership Award from the Community College of Philadelphia and the 2019 Americanism Award from the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia, as well as a special honor from Mural Arts Philadelphia in 2017 for his dedication to the city’s public art initiatives.

Jennifer Rice is devoted to many charitable organizations with focuses on the arts, education, women’s rights and animal welfare. She is co-founder of the Forman Arts Initiative and serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, Big Picture Philadelphia (Vaux and El Centro high schools), Elevate 215, ACCT Philly (Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia) and the Cat Collaborative. Rice is a member of the Gender Wealth Institute Advisory Committee for Women’s Way, the Philadelphia Equity Alliance, the Sam Fox School National Council and the Kemper Museum Collection Committee. She is also former board chair and current honorary trustee for The Philadelphia School, an independent, progressive school in Center City.

Silver Star Awards

Silver Star award recipient Dotty Attie pictured in black and white on the right holding a small square painting of a grinning or snarling dog over the lower half of her face. her focused eyes and soft white hair are seen above. identifying information is at the left.


Dotty Attie ’59 (Art Education)

Dotty Attie BFA ’59 (Art Education) was born in 1938 in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and is an acclaimed painter and one of the founders of A.I.R. Gallery, one of the first all-female cooperative art galleries in the U.S. Her work has been widely exhibited and is in many major museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in London and many other institutions.

Attie attended the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts), from which she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Following her time there, she continued her education through fellowships at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1960 and the Art Students League in 1967.

In 1972, she co-founded A.I.R., a nonprofit cooperative gallery and one of the first to exclusively feature the work of women artists. As an early artist-member, Attie helped the group choose a gallery space and recruit members. She also had her first solo show at the gallery in 1972. Later, she was an integral part of the gallery’s establishment of an international presence and helped to secure shows in Paris, Israel and Japan.

Attie’s personal style has remained fairly consistent throughout her career. She typically deconstructs existing images—such as Old Master paintings and early 20th century black-and-white photographs—and her works often includes text to create a narrative. Some of these pictures have been taken from the backgrounds of earlier works, bringing new perspectives to features that might have been formerly overshadowed. That approach produces a quality of differing scale, paired with short segments of text, which creates a cinematic quality throughout. The text and pictures are related but do not contribute to a clear narrative, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. Because Attie, at times, has meticulously repainted well-known works but presented them in fragments or with other modifications, her work has addressed the concepts of originality and reproduction.

Attie has received multiple grants, such as the Creative Artist Public Service Grant in 1976–1977 and the National Endowment for the Arts Grant, which she won in 1976–1977 and 1983–1984. She also was awarded an exchange grant to Japan, where she spent six months in 1985.

In addition to numerous honors in the art world, including her induction into the National Academy in 2013, Attie has the unusual distinction of having a punk band named after her: the female-led quartet Dottie Attie, which formed in 2013 and has since disbanded. Since 1959, Attie has lived and worked in New York City with her current partner, David Olan, a classical composer. She is represented by PPOW Gallery



silver star award recipient clayton reilly depicted in black and white at the right. Clayton is wearing a simple white collared shirt with his hands folded over his chest, looking directly at the viewer with a serious but warm, unshaven face. identifying information is written on the left over a razzle dazzle gradient.


Clayton Reilly MAT ’21 (Music Education), BM ’06 (Instrumental Performance)

Less than a year after graduating from University of the Arts with his Bachelor of Music, Clayton Reilly BM ’06 (Instrumental Performance), MAT ’21 (Music Education) was selected as a touring member of Corrine Bailey Rae’s band. His hard work and dedication to his craft continued to pay off, as he spent the following five years on the road with musician, singer and songwriter John Legend. That incredible opportunity enabled Reilly to perform alongside notable artists such as Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder and Natalie Cole. In addition, he appeared with Legend’s band at famous arenas around the world, on morning and late-night talk shows, and at President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Ball.

Working with John Legend also opened the door for Reilly to learn more about life on the other side of the studio wall. In 2010, he co-founded and became the CEO of Philly Phatboi Entertainment LLC. Reilly was also signed as a producer to BMG Chrysalis/Homeschool Records in a joint venture with Legend, and he worked with countless artists as a producer, a vocal arranger and a songwriter. His first Grammy nomination, in 2011, was in the Best R&B Album category for Ledisi’s Pieces of Me. Two more followed in 2012 for Best Urban Contemporary Album for Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for John Legend and Ludacris’ “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” the latter of which went multi-platinum after spending seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Additionally, it earned him Soul Train’s Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award. Fresh from that success, Reilly began working with Ne-Yo, who also served as his manager through Compound Entertainment from 2012 to 2015. During that time, he produced three songs on Ne-Yo’s R.E.D. album: “Unconditional,” “Jealous” and “Forever Now.” Since then, Reilly has participated on panels for the Recording Academy, for which he is also an active voting member.

After returning to University of the Arts to earn his Master of Education degree, Reilly accepted a position with the Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) in Pennsylvania in 2022. His positive experiences as a student in the BASD gave him the confidence he needed to pursue music professionally, and now he hopes to inspire the next generation in his role as an elementary music teacher. When Reilly is not performing in the classroom, he can be heard at various venues all over the Lehigh Valley and abroad, working as a solo jazz artist, a studio musician, a music producer and a collaborator. He is grateful for all the lessons he learned and connections he made at UArts, and he is deeply honored to be one of this year’s Silver Star Award recipients.