Governor Phil Scott today announced François Scarborough Clemmons as the recipient of the 2019 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Clemmons is a nationally renowned actor, singer, playwright and author. He is best known for his role as Officer Clemmons on the children’s television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Clemmons is also a Grammy-winning opera singer and founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble.
“I am pleased to name François as the winner of this year’s Excellence in the Arts award,” said Governor Scott. “His renowned musical talent and years of service to his community made him the perfect choice. Congratulations, François, and thank you for making Vermont proud.”
In 1996, Clemmons received an honorary doctorate from Middlebury College and became the director of the college choir in 1997. He was later named Twilight Artist-in-Residence and founded the college’s Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir. Clemmons retired from Middlebury College in 2013 but continues to live in the community and share his talents with his neighbors.
“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award in recognition of my life’s work in the arts,” said Clemmons. “Vermont was not my first home, but it has become my adopted home. It has been my pleasure to share for more than two decades my unique way of dressing, my television work, and my love of music—especially the American Negro Spiritual—with the students of Middlebury College and the people of Vermont. It has also been my privilege and blessing to serve my country by singing the National Anthem at naturalization ceremonies and athletic events throughout the state.”
Clemmons was selected from a pool of more than 70 nominees after careful consideration by the Vermont Arts Council, which made a formal recommendation to Governor Scott.
“The Vermont Arts Council is thrilled that our state’s most prestigious arts award will honor François Clemmons, someone who is celebrated nationwide and also beloved in Vermont as a gifted artist, educator, and mentor,” said Reeve Lindbergh, Chair of the Vermont Arts Council’s Board of Trustees Awards Committee.
For more information about the Vermont Arts Council, visit www.vermontartscouncil.org.