Renowned television, film and music producer and media entrepreneur Suzanne de Passe was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree by Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert and Dr. Floretta Dukes McKenzie, Chair of the Board of Trustees, during the University’s Charter Day Convocation on March 4.
"Be willing to take responsibility and exercise clear decision making," said de Passe as she gave the students a list of core values that “make sense” in the real world like self improvement, listening, and exploring your passion. She ended her speech with “be thankful ” and told students that “if people know you appreciate them, they will kill for you.”
De Passe began her career at Motown Records as the Creative Assistant to Motown founder Berry Gordy. She then went on to become the President of Motown Productions, and later became partner in Gordy/de Passe Productions, which led to the start of her own company.
”I started de Passe Entertainment in 1992 with no business plan, and no exit plan, no vocabulary and no clue,” she said. After being under Berry Gordy’s wing she expressed that starting a business was complex because “The Motown crew did everything for you.” For a while, she would write payroll checks from her own bank account.
She shared her experiences as an entrepreneur saying, “My journey has been craggy, crooked, overgrown, and scary, with deep mountains of obstacles, but I’m still here.” She continued with a confession, “I was a late-very late- academic bloomer and I am a college dropout.” She explained her lingering discontent with her decision and urged students not to follow in those footsteps. “Do you realize how prepared you’ll be to go into the world with a HowardUniversity degree?”
De Passe has also served as executive producer of sitcoms like "Sister, Sister" and "Smart Guy," the award winning mini-series "Lonesome Dove" and movie, "The Jackson’s: An American Dream."
Other honorees included Dr. Joseph E. Harris, in the fields of Education and International Studies; The Honorable Kamala D. Harris, in the fields of Law and Public Service; Mr. Kenneth L. Lattimore, in the field of Entertainment; Dr. Accie M. Mitchell, in the fields of Medicine and Community Service; and Mr. George S. Willie, in the fields of Business and Community Service. The University also honored Potomac Electric Power Company with the 2006 Corporate Award.