LMU to honor Jeannie Seely-Ward at Winter Commencement

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, November 26, 2019

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Lincoln Memorial University will honor Grand Ole Opry veteran member Jeannie Seely-Ward during its Winter Commencement exercises on Dec. 14 in Tex Turner Arena.

Seely-Ward will receive the honorary Doctor of Arts during the ceremony where 357 LMU students also will have degrees conferred on them. LMU will honor Seely-Ward with its most prestigious recognition for her many groundbreaking accomplishments in the music industry, as well as her support and encouragement of new talent.

She joins a small but distinguished group of musicians who have been honored by LMU. This includes legendary bluegrass pioneer Dr. Ralph Stanley and local bluegrass musician Dr. Steve Gulley.

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“Jeannie Seely-Ward is a true trailblazer in country music. LMU is eager to honor her, not only for her accomplished music career, but also for the tremendous mentorship she has shared with up and coming talent throughout her 52 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry,” said Dr. Clayton Hess, LMU president. “She has used her voice and the stage at the Opry to entertain and enrich lives. LMU is fortunate that she has used that platform to recognize her husband Gene Ward’s alma mater several times. Both Gene and Jeannie are great ambassadors for LMU and now we can proudly call Jeannie an official Railsplitter.”

Seely-Ward has been a member of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry for over 50 years. Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, she has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, duet partner and songwriter.

In 1966, Seely-Ward won a Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her recording of “Don’t Touch Me.” Early in her career, she was dubbed “Miss Country Soul” for her deeply moving vocals and the moniker has remained throughout her career. Known as an individualist her entire career, Seely-Ward became the first female to regularly host segments of the weekly Opry shows.

Seely-Ward is featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Country Music,” which was released earlier this year. She was noted as one of the premier female singers of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her PBS biography notes, “Seely was known for her big heart, emotion-packed voice, and salty wisecracks on stage – ‘Of course I want you for your body. I’ve got a mind of my own;’ ‘An ex-husband is one mistake you don’t have to live with;’ and others – she blazed a nonconformist trail in Nashville, sporting a miniskirt her first time onstage at the Grand Ole Opry and a sassy attitude wherever she went.”

Seely-Ward continues to record, perform and write in Nashville. “Like I Could,” which she co-wrote with Erin Enderlin and Bobby Tomberlin, was a recent No. 1 on the Bluegrass charts, recorded by Rhonda Vincent. She plans to release a new album, “An American Classic,” produced by Don Cusic from Curb Records in 2020.

Seely-Ward continues to host her weekly “Sundays with Seely” on Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM and proudly hosts Opry segments and performs each week as well as tour nationally.

Jeannie Seely-Ward is married to LMU alumnus Gene Ward, ’56, who was inducted into the LMU Professional Hall of Fame in 2005. He is retired from the Nashville Electric Service, where he headed the legal department as general counsel and vice president.