Bowie State University Names Its Performing Arts Theater After Dionne Warwick

The Dionne Warwick Theater is the first performing arts venue named in her honor.
Dionne Warwick says a few words at Bowie State University's ceremony.
Dionne Warwick says a few words at Bowie State University's ceremony.
Ryan Pelham/Bowie State University

You won鈥檛 be able to walk on by Bowie State University鈥檚 theater without seeing Dionne Warwick鈥檚 name.

The historically Black university in Maryland has named the theater inside its Fine and Performing Arts Center after the iconic singer.

Bowie State is 鈥渁 traditional Black college, and with us losing so many of them, this is a fine promotion to give. [Historically Black colleges and universities] are still very vital, not only to our existence but to the world,鈥 said Warwick.

It will be the first performing arts venue named after the six-time Grammy winner known for such hits as the 1967 song 鈥淚 Say A Little Prayer,鈥 the 1969 track 鈥淚鈥檒l Never Fall In Love Again,鈥 and the 1964 classic 鈥淲alk On By.鈥

The vocalist has a connection with the university. Warwick, a decades-long advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, visited Bowie State鈥檚 wellness center and was 鈥渁bsolutely blown away by the work they do there.鈥 After touring the campus and visiting the fine and performing arts department, the match was lit.

鈥淚鈥檓 truly excited and thrilled,鈥 she said.

Dionne Warwick claps as her name is unveiled at Bowie State University's performing arts venue.
Dionne Warwick claps as her name is unveiled at Bowie State University's performing arts venue.
Ryan Pelham/Bowie State University

Warwick, one of the most charted vocalists ever, has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the R&B Music Hall of Fame. Though she is known for her singing ability, she was also a pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the 1980s 鈥 a time when the stigma and fear associated with the disease were at its height.

In 1985, she released 鈥淭hat鈥檚 What Friends Are For鈥 to benefit AIDS research and raised more than $3 million for the cause. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed the singer as U.S. Ambassador of Health.

Knowing her background as a humanitarian, the decision was easy for Bowie State, said Tewodross Williams.

鈥淲e鈥檙e not only trying to create artists and creatives, but we want to create what I call socially engaged artists,鈥 explained Williams, associate professor and chair of the university鈥檚 fine and performing arts department. 鈥淲e want our students to be connected socially, globally, and politically in terms of the world and what affects them. We encourage our students to use their art for social change.鈥

The past decade has seen alumni from historically Black colleges and universities achieve the highest honors in entertainment. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter, a Virginia鈥檚 Hampton University graduate, recently became the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Tennessee State University鈥檚 marching band is now the first marching band to win Best Roots Gospel Album at the Grammys. And Bowie State鈥檚 own Myles Frost won a Tony for his role as Michael Jackson in 鈥淢J: The Musical.鈥

Now that the theater is named after such a legendary singer, Williams wants to welcome everyone to see the talent the university can display for themselves.

鈥淲e want people to come see these amazing performances, film festivals, and all kinds of things that are happening. Come out and support,鈥 he said.

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