Doctor of Arts 2009
Arthur Mitchell - dancer, choreographer and educator -is a pivotal figure in the world of dance and is an agent for social change. He is co-founder and artistic director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, a multicultural ballet company of international renown that has broken barriers around the world. After studying at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts and the School of American Ballet, Mitchell became the first African-American male to be a permanent member and principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, he resolved to provide opportunities for the children of Harlem and the following year co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem as a school and professional ballet company. Over the years, Mitchell and his dancers have served as cultural ambassadors and have received global acclaim for their performances in countries including the former Soviet Union, South Africa, China and England. Many of his former students have achieved distinguished careers as dancers, choreographers and teachers in other settings. Mitchell helped develop Dancing Through Barriers®, a national and international education and community outreach program that introduces young people to dance. For his contributions to American arts, culture and education, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer upon Arthur Mitchell the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.