MACON, Ga. — Mercer University awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree to Mr. Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and forest conservationist, at the main Macon commencement on May 13. Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey made the presentation after Leavell performed "Georgia on My Mind" for the more than 3,000 people at the University Center. The commencement ceremony was held for the more than 450 graduates of the College of Liberal Arts, Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics, School of Engineering and Tift College of Education, as well as their families.
Leavell is a longtime professional musician whose piano and keyboard work has been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, George Harrison, The Allman Brothers Band, Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler and many, many more. His association with the Stones has been a long one, beginning back in 1982, and is still going strong.
In addition to his musical expertise, he is now a respected author, having penned a book on forestry and conservation called Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest, 2nd edition (Mercer University Press, 2003). This book is now in its second printing in the U.S. and has been translated and released in Germany and Austria. Mr. Leavell takes this passion to the streets by giving speeches and presentations to a variety of groups and also spends time in Washington, D.C., meeting and speaking to committees, environmental officials and high-level government officials to help shape policy and to promote sound forestry management practices in America. This has resulted in Mr. Leavell being one of the most sought after keynote speakers around. He and his wife, Rose Lane, were given the ultimate honor for their outstanding management of their own forestland, Charlane Plantation, by being named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999.
His autobiography with co-writer J. Marshall Craig entitled "Between Rock and a Home Place" (Mercer University Press, 2004) has garnered such overwhelming reviews that one critic even declared it the "best rock autobiography ever." Taking the reader from his early days as an upstart musician in Alabama in the late '60s to his classic '70s years with the Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level and his many sessions as a premiere sideman to his more than 20 years with the Rolling Stones and much more in-between, this book rocks. Mr. Leavell also discusses his passion for forestry and the environment as well as his dedication to his family.
In addition to his solo projects and working with the Stones and their various solo projects, Mr. Leavell is an in-demand session player and producer. His credits include recordings by Gregg Allman, Chuck Berry, the Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Larry Carlton, Eric Clapton (notably, the Grammy-winning Unplugged album), Aretha Franklin, George Harrison, Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule, John Hiatt, Indigo Girls, Train, Dave Edmunds, Dion and scores of other artists.
A well-established pianist in the music industry, Mr. Leavell continues to tour and record with national artists and manages plenty of time to work on Charlane Plantation, his beloved hunting and pristine pine forest plantation. At his home in rural Georgia, you can find Mr. Leavell working in the woods, playing his piano and declaring he's fortunate to have three real passions in his life: "My family, my trees and my music," he says. "I have no intentions of slowing down in music now! But one day I will hang up my rock 'n roll shoes and I hope it will be right here on a pine tree."
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County, Macon and Eastman. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. On July 1 2006, the University will add its eleventh academic program, the School of Music. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South. The Princeton Review has ranked it among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation.
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