The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved awarding an honorary doctoral degree this spring to famed French composer, conductor and pianist Michel Legrand.

Michel Legrand
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Legrand, best known for classic film scores for such motion pictures as "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Summer of '42" and "Umbrellas of Cherbourg," will be in Kalamazoo in May to perform with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra for the 2016 Gilmore Keyboard Festival. He will receive the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at a small private reception in May. The presentation will be taped and included in a video that will be shown at WMU's June commencement ceremony.

A prolific composer, Legrand has written more than 200 film and television scores. He won the first of his three Academy Awards in 1968, when "The Windmills of Your Mind" from "The Thomas Crown Affair" was lauded as best original song. He also has won five Grammy awards.

A campuswide committee made the degree recommendation to the WMU board. The committee, led by Kathryn L. Hillenbrand, a master faculty specialist in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, praised Legrand for a lifetime of work that has "bridged the musical styles of European classical, American jazz and popular music."

"The committee believes Mr. Legrand's scholarly and artistic achievements are significant, and serve as an exceptional model of Western Michigan University ideals and aspirations for students, faculty and alumni," according to the formal recommendation made to trustees.

Legrand was born near Paris in 1932. He studied music at the Paris Conservatory from 1943 to 1950, graduating with top honors as both a composer and a pianist. He recorded his first album at age 22 and that album, "I Love Paris," became one of the best selling instrumental albums of all times.

Legrand has performed with symphony orchestras around the world. He has worked, as well, with such diverse musical stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Iggy Pop.

Source: WMU release

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