Two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Florida May 4 at the spring commencement ceremony. The award recognizes eminent achievement in scholarship or high distinction in public service.
“Chita Rivera’s accomplished career and exceptional talent have left a legacy in the Broadway world,” said Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, in a statement. “We are grateful for the connections she has made with our musical theatre program and are delighted to grant her an honorary degree from the University of Florida.”
Rivera first came to UF in 2004 to receive the Linda Wilson Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Theatre. Professor Tony Mata, head of the musical theatre department, created the award with Linda and George Wilson to honor preeminent artists, and he chose Rivera to be the second recipient.
“Chita Rivera is honestly one of the few remaining legendary Broadway stars of all time,” Mata said. “There are few stars that are unlike anybody else, and she’s one of them. You can’t get any better than Chita.”
Rivera won Tony Awards for her performances in The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She originated the role of Anita in the 1957 premiere of West Side Story and has appeared in the Broadway productions of Chicago, Bye Bye Birdie, Jerry's Girls, Merlin, Bajour, Can-Can, and Nine, as well as her autobiographical show, The Dancer's Life. Rivera also originated the role of Claire Zachanassian in the Kander-Ebb-McNally musical The Visit, which premiered on Broadway in 2015. She was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.
See Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, and More Preview Their Upcoming 54 Below Shows
Rivera has been a special guest performer on Playbill’s Broadway on the High Seas cruises. Tickets are now on sale for the Broadway on the Rhône River 2 cruise April 7–14, 2019, and the Broadway on the High Seas 10: Odyssey Through the Greek Isles cruise June 24–July 1, 2019. Lineups of top Broadway stars will be announced at a later date. Call Judy Perl Worldwide for tickets at (844) 561-3625. Visit PlaybillTravel.com for booking and information.