WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Accomplished painter, singer and humanitarian Tony Bennett and his wife, arts advocate Susan Benedetto, have been awarded the George Washington University President's Medal, the highest honor the university president can bestow. George Washington President Steven Knapp presented the award to honor Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Benedetto's dedication to the arts at a ceremony in the Corcoran building, home to GW's Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, on July 30.
The award ceremony featured a private one-night-only exhibition of 18 pieces of Mr. Bennett's renowned art, including a bust of Harry Belafonte and paintings of Duke Ellington and of Central Park – both of which are part of the Smithsonian Institution's permanent collection.
The George Washington University President's Medal recognizes individuals who have exhibited courage, character and leadership in their chosen fields and who exemplify the ability of all human beings to improve the lives of others.
"It's a particular pleasure to recognize the contributions of Tony Bennett and Susan Benedetto to arts education at the home of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, one of the most iconic buildings in our nation's capital," said GW President Steven Knapp.
Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Benedetto have worked to make arts education a priority in American public schools. In 1999, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Benedetto founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. That same year, the couple founded the nonprofit arts education organization Exploring the Arts. Today, Exploring the Arts has partnerships with 23 public high schools in New York City and Los Angeles.
Mr. Bennett, who is among the most popular recording artists in American history, paints under his family name as Anthony Benedetto. Three of Mr. Bennett's original works are housed in the Smithsonian Institution's permanent collection, including a portrait of Duke Ellington at the National Portrait Gallery, a painting of Central Park at the American Art Museum, and a portrait of Ella Fitzgerald at the National Museum of American History.
"I could never dream of anything this beautiful happening to me. After years of work and wondering where it is all going to end up, this is a great experience in my life," said Tony Bennett.
As an advocate for civil rights, Mr. Bennett marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, and he refused to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era. A dedicated humanitarian, Mr. Bennett has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His original paintings are displayed each year as the cover of the American Cancer Society's holiday greeting card, with proceeds going to cancer research.
Mrs. Benedetto has devoted much of her life to supporting arts education. She is a graduate of Fordham University and Columbia University's Teachers College. Mrs. Benedetto was the owner of Creative Artists Management, where she advised artists on management of their careers and coordinated publicity, bookings and recording projects. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Mrs. Benedetto also served as a social studies teacher and assistant principal at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Previous recipients of the President's Medal, established in 1988, include Nobel laureate and former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, NASA astronaut Charles J. Camarda and journalist Walter Cronkite.
SOURCE George Washington University