According to Diverse Education, Ralph is a Rutgers alumna as a member of the 1972 graduating class. The report also says the Abbott Elementary actress is in the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
“As we celebrate the birthday of Paul Robeson, great actor, great artist, outstanding athlete, outstanding student, I’m so happy to represent his legacy as one of the first women, especially one of the first Black women, to graduate from Rutgers College. Legacy matters,” Ralph said, cited by Diverse Education.
Ralph plays veteran kindergarten teacher Ms. Howard on the ubiquitous television show Abbott Elementary. Back in 1982, Ralph was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway play, Dreamgirls. In 2022, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that she became the second Black woman to win an Emmy. During her acceptance speech, the 66-year-old sang the lyrics to a Dianne Reeves song: “I am an endangered species, but I sing a victim’s song, I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.”
The actress also uses her voice to speak out on issues such as AIDS. As an AIDS activist, Ralph is the founding director of the Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed (DIVA) Foundation. She is a recipient of the Red Ribbon Award at the United Nations. She’s also the brains behind Divas Simply Singing!, which is a musical AIDS benefit show, as well as an ambassador for Jamaica’s Ministry of Health.
The commencement speech for Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences will occur on May 14.