OKCU awards doctorate to Harold Nicholas

Oklahoma City University gives Posthumous Honorary Doctorate to tapperOklahoma City University (OKCU) recently awarded a posthumous Honorary Doctor of Performing Arts in American Dance to Harold Nicholas, who passed away in 2000. Harold and his brother Fayard performed as the famously known “Nicholas Brothers” and have been widely recognized as two of the world’s greatest dancers.


The award was presented by Dr. Kent Buchanan, OKCU Provost; John Bedford, Dean of OKCU’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment; and Jo Rowan, founder and chairman of the Ann Lacy School’s American musical theatre dance department. A special ceremony was included in the Ann Lacy School’s annual SAMMYS Honors and Awards Banquet on the evening of Friday, April 28. The red carpet event is held annually to recognize the accomplishments of Ann Lacy School dance and entertainment faculty and students.


At the end of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st century, individuals who contributed significantly to the development of American tap were still alive. Most were black. Due to our national racial history, black artists were deprived of the recognition they should have received for the innovation and quality they brought to their performances. The Ann Lacy School faculty recommended that OKCU show national and international leadership by significant recognition of the artistic and cultural merit of the contributions of 10 key living great black tap artists by awarding them Honorary Doctor of Performing Arts in American Dance degrees during Black History Month in February 2002. All were in their 70’s and 80’s and one was in his 90’s.


Oklahoma City University gives Posthumous Honorary Doctorate to tapperTwo of the ten were Fayard and Harold Nicholas. However, before the Trustee’s consideration began, Harold died, and nine names were submitted to the Trustees. The Trustees unanimously approved the awards, to be presented at a special event scheduled for February 23, 2002.


The event was a tremendous success, with many of the world’s top tap dancers coming to campus to honor the nine and to participate in tribute dances.


Fayard and Harold did everything in their professional lives together, almost from infancy. When Fayard received his honorary degree from OKCU in 2002, he lamented in his acceptance speech that Harold was not here to experience and share the joy of such a wonderful recognition of their accomplishments.


Tap dancers Harold and Fayard NicholasOKCU was widely hailed in the dance world for courageously and justly recognizing artists who in so many ways were at best ignored and at worst purposefully deprived of opportunities and recognition. OKCU’s action has entered the history of American dance, and the group has become known as “The Nine Doctors of Dance.”


“The Ann Lacy School faculty believes that awarding a posthumous Honorary Doctor of Performing Arts in American Dance to Harold Nicholas would allow Harold to join his brother Fayard and the other ‘Doctors of Dance’ with this recognition, as originally intended,” stated John Bedford, dean of the school. “Harold was a giant as a dancer, entertainer and performing artist. It is righteous and just that he receive recognition for his significant contribution to American dance and culture.”


For more information on OKCU’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment, visit www.okcu.edu/dance/home.


Photo (top): Harold Nicholas (March 27, 1921 – July 3, 2000.) Photo (left): Dean John Bedford, the late Harold Nicholas and Professor Jo Rowan. Photo by Melba Huber. Photo (right): The Nicholas Brothers. Photos courtesy of the Jazz Tap Center.