Central Park Five member receiving SU’s 1st honorary undergrad degree

Onondaga County

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR) — Kevin Richardson always dreamed of attending Syracuse University. He shared what it’s like being on campus.

“I feel like I belong here, that I am really here,” Richardson said. “It feels good to come back two years later and see people actually. I dreamed of this as a kid, being 14.” He loved music and basketball, and this campus had both. “I always pictured myself with Syracuse.”

He was robbed of that dream in 1989. That’s when Richardson and four other teens were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park. They were known then as the “Central Park Five” for a crime they did not commit.

“It’s a long time coming,” Richardson said. In 2002, they were all exonerated when the real rapist came forward.

Now 46, Richardson will be the first person in Syracuse University history to receive an honorary undergraduate degree, as part of the class of 2020. “To be recognized by the university, that’s a really big deal,” Richardson said, “I brought my 13-year-old to witness it, to carry my legacy. So to be the first of anything is a blessing and I’m extremely humbled by it.”

He said his daughter also wants to study music at SU. His mom will also be here to witness this historic honor. “My mother is so excited,” he explained. “She’s proud to see me because the last time I actually attended a graduation, I was in sixth grade.”

While he may have never been a student here, many can learn a powerful lesson in resilience from his example. “My brothers, as the Exonerated Five, we rose from the pitfalls of hell,” he recalled. “To be here literally is a blessing and I don’t take anything for granted.”

In 2019, the university also honored him by establishing a scholarship in his name: the Our Time Has Come Kevin Richardson Scholarship.

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