On Tuesday, April 3rd the glitterati of the Las Vegas art scene converged to celebrate the induction of the First Lady of Motown, Claudette Robinson, into the 15th Annual College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame at UNLV.

The College of Fine Arts annually honors individuals who have made countless contributions to Nevada and the city of Las Vegas by inducting them into the College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame.  Past inductees include award-winning actor Tony Curtis, legendary performers Liberace, Wayne Newton and Dean’s Medal Recipients Carol Channing and Debbie Reynolds, to name a few.

“Oftentimes, the contributions of women in the music industry go overlooked,” attendee and nominating committee member Anthony Luzi said. “In my opinion, inducting Claudette Robinson into the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer and it was long overdue.”

Motown Founder and Chairman Berry Gordy with Claudette Robinson and William "Smokey" Robinson

Robinson’s singing ability was first noticed by nuns at her Catholic school in her native New Orleans, LA.  But when Robinson relocated to Detroit as a youth, it was her academic career that was her main priority – so much so that she graduated with honors from Commerce High School at the tender age of 15.  After attending Wayne State University through her sophomore year and completing a successful stint in the United States Marine Corps Reserves as a member of the Rifle Team, Robinson returned to Detroit and embarked on a historical singing career that would span 5 decades and make musical history.

As the first female artist signed to Berry Gordy’s Tamla/Motown label, Robinson is not only, as Berry Gordy dubber her, “The First Lady of Motown;” but her career has provided the blueprint for legions of female artists who have followed in her trailblazing footsteps. As The Miracles, she and her group mates William “Smokey”Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore, Ronald “Ronnie” White and Robert “Bobby” Rogers  released their first single “Got a Job” in 1958; and in 1960, their record “Shop Around” became Motown’s first million record seller.  Additional Miracles hits include “Going to a Go-Go,” “Tears of a Clown,” “Tracks of My Tears” and many more.

In 2009, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored The Miracles with a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame; and in 2012, The Miracles were retroactively inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by their leader Smokey Robinson.

Robinson’s Motown labelmate and a legend in her own right, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, was on hand at UNLV to introduce Claudette Robinson during the induction ceremony. During her introduction, Wilson related personal stories such as the time The Supremes auditioned for Claudette and Smokey Robinson when they were just teenagers. “The Miracles were already stars, but Claudette was so beautiful and gracious to us. We toured all over the world together and she mentored us.” Wilson shared. “And you still look good!” Wilson exclaimed as she welcomed Robinson to the stage.

Claudette Robinson of The Miracles and Mary Wilson of The Supremes at the 15th Annual College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame ceremony at UNLV

During her acceptance speech, Robinson gave credit  to her groupmates for always treating her respectfully and protectively – particularly whenever they were on tour. She went on to show some of that incredible graciousness that Mary Wilson had mentioned earlier as she thanked UNLV for this prestigious honor. “I can’t thank UNLV enough for giving me this honor because, after being around for such a long time – almost 61 years – people don’t always quite remember, ” she said, “Thank you for remembering. It is an honor to be honored.”

Also in attendance to celebrate Robinson’s induction included Motown songwriter Janie Bradford and Tina Moore, the widow of original Miracles member Warren “Pete” Moore, who passed away in November of 2017.  Robinson’s fellow Hall of Fame Inductees included: architect and educator Denise Scott Brown, artists Leslie and Dale Chihuly, President and CEO of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts Myron Martin and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. Dean’s Medal Recipients included Dr. Harvey Allen Godorov and William Lowman; and Tim Bavington was recognized as the College of Fine Arts Alumnus of the Year.

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