On Saturday, March 1st, Marshall College and UC San Diego honored Mr. Avery’s life, career, and legacy through an afternoon of theater, live music, personal reflections and poetry readings. Key artistic and historic participants will include Cecil Lytle, Arthur Wagner, Monique Gaffney, Jorge Huerta, John Wesley, members of the African American theater community, and a Daphne Maxwell Reid from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
James Avery, famed actor, poet and UC San Diego alumnus was the iconic father figure in the hit television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Avery was a strong champion of UC San Diego and Thurgood Marshall College, returning often to his alma mater as a featured guest and Commencement speaker. Although best known as "Philip Banks" - the judge and uncle/patriarch to Will Smith - on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996), Mr. James Avery was a classically trained actor and scholar. James Avery’s long playing character was ranked #34 in TV Guide’s "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." A native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, he joined the US Navy after graduating high school and served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Upon leaving the military, James Avery moved to San Diego, California and began writing TV scripts and poetry for PBS. He won an Emmy for production during his tenure there and deservedly won a scholarship to Marshall College/University of California at San Diego from which he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Literature. In addition to his sitcom popularity, he has lent his voice to over a dozen animated television series and features. He also had been the primary host of the popular PBS travel and adventure series Going Places (1997). Armed with a diverse resume of credits, James Avery had become a unique creative force as convincing a comedian as he was a Shakespearean character. He was Thurgood Marshall College’s Commencement Speaker in 2007 and 2012. In addition, he gave a wonderful one person show on the life of Thurgood Marshall as part of the college’s 40th anniversary in 2010 and he received the highest college honor for career achievement – The Thurgood Marshall Medal – in 2012. Mr. Avery had established decades ago with his wife Barbara (also an alumna and former TMC Dean) the James Avery Endowed Scholarship Fund which will continue in perpetuity to provide undergraduate scholarships to African-American students who major in the performing arts at UCSD which continues as part of his legacy.
The James Avery Memorial Scholarship is a fund that has been established by friends and family in memory of James. The family intends this gifts in this fund to be awarded to students pursuing studies in the performing arts, with a preference for those enrolled in Thurgood Marshall College that are also African American . The awards will be administered in compliance with the student to fund matching criteria permitted under the university’s Proposition 209 guidelines.