American actress, singer, author, and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph will deliver the keynote when Jackson State University hosts its annual Mary E. Peoples Scholarship Luncheon at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, at the Jackson Convention Complex in downtown Jackson.
This year’s goal is $150,000 and proceeds will benefit the Mary E. Peoples Endowed Scholarship, which provides supplemental financial assistance to high-achieving students in need. The luncheon is named in honor of the wife of JSU’s sixth president, Dr. John A. Peoples Jr., who served from 1967 until 1984.
“Mrs. Mary E. Peoples, first lady emeritus, is a longtime educator best known for her community leadership and service to humanity. Because of her lifelong service in education, the JSU Division of Institutional Advancement is pleased to host this annual scholarship luncheon that bears her name,” says Yolanda Owens, assistant vice president of institutional advancement and external affairs. “Proceeds will help create educational pathways for students at JSU. We invite all alumni and friends of JSU to partner with us, and we look forward to hearing from our keynote, the highly esteemed Mrs. Sheryl Lee Ralph.”
Ralph is a Tony Award nominee, an NAACP Image Award nominee, and an Independent Spirit Award-winner with an acclaimed career spanning over three decades.
From bringing characters to life on screen, performing on Broadway, producing, and landing the title of national bestselling author with her literary debut, to her deep-rooted philanthropic endeavors that touch lives across the world, Ralph has become a staple in the entertainment industry.
She can currently be seen starring in ABC’s highly anticipated comedy series, “Abbott Elementary,” opposite Quinta Brunson. This laugh-out-loud workplace comedy follows a group of teachers brought together in a Philadelphia school simply because they love teaching. They rely on one another to make it through the day and find a way to counteract the school district’s indifferent attitude toward educating children. Ralph shines as Barbara, a longtime and respected teacher.
“Abbot Elementary” debuted episode #1 on Dec. 7, 2021, to rave reviews, with critics describing it as, “a smart first impression” (Variety) and “the next great network sitcom” (The Hollywood Reporter).
Additional credits for Ralph include starring in over 100 episodes of “Moesha” opposite Grammy Award winner Brandy, a lead role opposite Tia Mowry in three seasons of Nickelodeon’s hit series “Instant Mom,” starring opposite Jon Voight in “Ray Donovan” for Showtime, and appearances on “Barbershop,” “ER,” “It’s a Living,” “New Attitude,” and “Designing Women,” to name a few.
On the big screen, Ralph has worked with some of Hollywood’s leading and award-winning men such as in “The Mighty Quinn,” opposite Denzel Washington; “Mistress” with Robert de Niro; “To Sleep with Anger” with Danny Glover; and “The Distinguished Gentlemen” with Eddie Murphy. Most recently, Ralph completed four back-to-back movies, including “Just Getting Started” opposite Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo.
As a writer, Ralph’s debut book “Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl” (Simon & Schuster) instantly became a national bestseller and gave readers a personal look into her triumphs and tribulations, navigating life with courage, wit, and strength over the years.
In theater, Ralph is well known for her award-winning work, creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” which earned her Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards.
Ralph is also a passionate health advocate and honored AIDS activist. She is the founding director of the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation 501(C)3 which she created in memory of the many friends she has lost to HIV/AIDS.
Ralph is married to Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Hughes. Together they have a blended family of four.
Tickets are $100. For more information or to reserve a table, visit Mary E. Peoples Scholarship Luncheon.