Simply said, Michael was very intelligent, but in terms of “documented formal education,” he had just attained the bare minimum to conduct his unwarranted ascent to stardom.
One of the things I remember about Michael that breaks my heart the most—among all the things—is his deep ambition to be a teacher, to have gone to college and earned a degree in higher study. In addition to celebrities, Michael was particularly drawn to educated women with degrees and higher levels of education.
When I first met Michael, I was a college student, and he had so many questions about what it was like to be a student. In contrast to his work or Hollywood, we spoke more about college. I told him he would fit in with the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity because I’m a Delta Sigma Theta and he wanted to know about the parties, sororities, and fraternities. Michael would question me about my study habits, how I prepared for tests, the 24-hour library, my diet, the cramped mattresses, whether I shared a room with people, etc. He was attracted by everything about college life.
Jackson’s two-bedroom home was only a few blocks away from Gary, Indiana’s Garnett Elementary school, where Michael received his public education. Up to the age of 11, Michael and his siblings walked to and from school. Michael performed his first song in front of an audience at a school talent event.
Michael and his brothers were forced to stop attending school once The Jackson 5 gained notoriety. Up until Michael received his diploma from the Montclair College Preparatory School, they were tutored for three hours every day by a private tutor named Rose Fine, “who apparently MJ loved like a second mom.” Michael was an extremely educated and gifted kid, according to Ms. Fine.
The United Negro College Fund honored Michael for his commitment of $600,000 to HBCU students by giving him their highest honor, the Fredrick D. Patterson Award, during their 44th annual banquet. There were many famous people there, including Spike Lee, Quincy Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, and Liza Minnelli. To top it all off, Whitney Houston sang the Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
Michael received an honorary degree from Fisk University’s president, Dr. Henry Ponder, at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Even President Ronald Reagan gave Michael a taped message of congratulations, saying:
“Michael, I’m sorry Nancy and I couldn’t be there for this extremely momentous day, but I want to express my congratulations on the awards you will get tonight from the United Negro College Fund and the honorary degree you will receive from Fisk University. I’ll be the first to refer to you as the new Dr.
Michael was a voracious reader who could finish a book in two to three days if he was really into it. His favorite subjects were history and biology. He liked reading autobiographies or nonfiction than fiction, but who can resist a good mystery?
The majority of people are aware of Michael’s visits to orphanages and children’s hospitals while he was on the road, but he also went to bookstores while wearing a disguise in nearly every continent, nation, and city he went to.
He called to ask how my kids’ first day of school went and mentioned that he wanted his kids to get a regular education when he had kids. Michael wished for his kids to take part in extracurricular activities like cheerleading and soccer. He regrettably never had the opportunity to experience that aspect of parenting. “Gone Too Quickly!”