John Legend. (Photo: InfoMoto via Wikimedia Commons) John Legend. (Photo: InfoMoto via Wikimedia Commons)


Some celebrity star power is set to shine on the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Grammy-winning musician John Legend has joined the advisory board of the school’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.

Legend, who in addition to 10 Grammy awards also won Oscar for his song “Glory” that appeared in the 2014 film “Selma,” is no stranger to Penn or criminal justice reform—the Quattrone Center’s focus. He received his undergraduate degree from the Philadelphia school in 1999 and also founded the #FREEAMERICA campaign with his business partner and manager Ty Stiklorius, who has an undergraduate and business degree from Penn. That campaign aims to end mass incarceration.

“I am thrilled to be working with my alma mater on critical issues facing our criminal justice system,” Legend said in an announcement of his appointment Wednesday. “The Quattrone Center brings together insights from different disciplines and focuses on the tangible results of reform. I look forward to joining them in these significant efforts.”

The move to bring Legend aboard was “a substantive thing” not “just a celebrity thing,” said John Hollway, executive director of the Quattrone Center. “John has earned the right to be on this board. He is a thoughtful and passionate advocate on these issues.”

Hollway said Legend and Stiklorius approached the center to learn more about its work, and the offer of an advisory board position grew from those talks.

Stiklorius said she and Legend will work with the center to further research and devise metrics to weigh how prosecutors can most effectively leverage their roles to improve community safety.

“For decades, success for prosecutors has largely been defined in terms of wins and convictions,” she said.

The center’s most recent work has examined how the cash bail system contributes to errors and disparity within the criminal justice system, and has catalogued best practices for conviction review units.

While Legend is the only celebrity on the center’s 14-member advisory board, there are plenty of legal heavy hitters, including former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and Brendan Sullivan Jr., senior partner at Williams & Connolly.

The advisory board meets twice annually. “John will come as often as he can, given his schedule,” Hollway  said. “We’re excited to have him participate.”

Contact Karen Sloan at On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ