(PINE BLUFF, AR) – GRAMMY-award winning singer and pastor, Class of 1995 graduate Smokie Norful will deliver the commencement address to the fall 2020 graduating class at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff during a virtual commencement to be held on Friday, December 18, 2020, at 6 p.m. CST via YouTube.
Norful is best known for his 2002 album I Need You Now and his 2004 release, Nothing Without You, which won a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2005.
Norful, a minister who is also the son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas but grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, deeply involved in his father’s church. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as a history major and spent four years teaching high school. In 1998 he felt “called” to the ministry, and pursued a Masters of Divinity degree at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Upon graduation and ordination, he took a position as assistant pastor at a church in Chicago. He participated in an album release by the Thompson Community Choir, a well-known gospel group, and contributed a song as well as solo vocals. He was then offered the opportunity to make a solo album for EMI Gospel, I Need You Now. The album was a slow starter but eventually went gold, spending two years in the upper reaches of the Billboard Gospel Charts.
He was nominated for and won a GRAMMY in 2005 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. He is also signed to EMI-CMG Publishing and his own Norful Music Publishing as a songwriter. He performed on June 6, 2005, for President George W. Bush in a concert honoring Black Music Month. Norful is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and pastors the Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Chicago and Bolingbrook, IL.
About the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a public comprehensive HBCU 1890 Land-Grant Institution. The University embraces its land-grant mission of providing cutting edge research, teaching, outreach, and service programs that respond to the social and economic needs of the state and region. Its mission is to promote and sustain excellent academic programs that integrate quality instruction, research, and student learning experiences responsive to the needs of a racially, culturally, and economically diverse student population. Ultimately, the University is dedicated to providing access and opportunity to academically deserving students and producing graduates who are equipped to excel through their contributions and leadership in a 21st century national and global community. For more information, visit www.uapb.edu.