Al Jarreau reads to kids at the Ripon Public Library in 2006.
Al Jarreau reads to kids at the Ripon Public Library in 2006.

   Despite being Ripon College’s most famous graduate — neither Harrison Ford nor Spencer Tracy received their diplomas — Al Jarreau’s invitations to “perform” on campus were few and far between.

   His first was 60 years ago this summer, when the junior from Milwaukee’s Lincoln High School was welcomed to Ripon to serve as a delegate at Badger Boy’s State.

   The 17-year-old ran for office, made speeches and was elected governor.

   He ran against another Milwaukee native, marking the only time in Boy’s State history that a future Grammy Award winner beat out a future Emmy Award winner.

   Jarreau got more votes than a teenager named Daniel Travanti, who went on to star on TV’s “Hill Street Blues.” (The bad news is that Jarreau lost a Badger Boys scholarship to Ripon College after flunking French.)

   Jarreau’s last formal invitation — to sing, not give a speech — came around 47 years later, when Ripon College President David Joyce extended it to the ’62 psychology major.

   “I visited Al in Atlanta in 2004 and asked him why he had not done a concert at his alma mater,” Joyce recalled. “He said that he had not been asked. So, I said, ‘I’m asking.’”

   Two years later — “It took a while to work out the logistics,” Joyce explained — the concert took place Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006.

   Jarreau, a seven-time Grammy Award winner who died on the day, Sunday, and in the city, Los Angeles, of the 59th annual Grammy Awards, gave a gift to the college that gave him a diploma.

Read the full story in the Feb. 16, 2017 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.