Roosevelt to give Jazz Showcase founder honorary doctorate

Joe Segal

Joe Segal will receive an honorary doctorate from Roosevelt University. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune / January 6, 2011)

Make that Dr. Segal: Jazz Showcase founder Joe Segal, who has presented jazz here since 1947, will receive an honorary doctorate from Roosevelt University.

That’s the school he attended from 1947 to ’57 without getting a degree, “because I was up all night hanging with the musicians out south,” says Segal, 87, referring to the city’s South Side.

The contacts Segal made enabled him to feature at his Roosevelt jam sessions such jazz masters as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and uncounted others.

“Joe Segal, because of his decades-long dedication to the preservation and promotion of jazz in American culture, is a cultural icon in his own right,” said Roosevelt president Chuck Middleton in a statement. “His career and life at the Jazz Showcase embody the traditions of Roosevelt University in every way.”

What does Segal, one of the most enduring jazz presenters in America, think about receiving the academic salute?

“I feel good about it,” says Segal, who will be presented a doctor of humane letters degree, honoris causa, during a commencement ceremony on Dec. 13 at Roosevelt’s Auditorium Theatre.

“I still would like the reward instead of the award,” quips Segal, “but that’s not going to happen.”

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