August 25, 2019 | 77° F

Rutgers student Regina Belle, best known for starring in Aladdin, to sing at School of Arts and Sciences Convocation

Regina Belle is a unique Rutgers student in many ways. 

Not only is she a mother of five and grandmother, but she is a Grammy-award winning rhythm and blues singer, best known for her hit song, “A Whole New World,” featured in Disney’s 1992 animated feature, Aladdin.

Before pursuing a full-time musical career and winning the Grammy award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Belle was a Rutgers student who left the university in the 1980s during her senior year. She only had a few courses left to complete before earning her bachelor's degree.

After nearly three decades, Belle told Rutgers Today she has returned to Rutgers, utilizing online courses to complete her remaining 15 credit requirements to receive her degree in Africana Studies with a minor in music from the School of Arts and Sciences.

“Music was in my blood, it was what I wanted to do. It was what I had to do,” Belle told Rutgers Today. “But there was always a voice in the back of my head telling me I need to go back and get that diploma.”

May 17 will be a performance like no other for Belle, as she will perform her song, “Dream in Color,” at High Point Solutions Stadium on Busch campus directly after receiving her bachelor’s degree during the 249th Rutgers commencement ceremony.

After commencement, Belle can add her degree to her growing list of accomplishments, which includes 10 critically-acclaimed albums and becoming an ordained minister.

“On a day when we celebrate our students, and bear witness to the importance of a liberal arts and sciences education, it’s truly an honor to welcome Regina Belle,” School of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Peter March told Rutgers Today. “The dedication, persistence and commitment she has shown are an inspiration to all of us.”

To Belle, returning to college and completing what she started is as rewarding as winning her Grammy.

“It means as much to me because it connects me to so many other people,” Belle told Rutgers Today. “For me to do this now, it provides an example to other people. They can see that it wasn’t a Grammy that did it. It was just me. And I had to roll up my sleeves, put in the time, and figure this thing out.”

Belle said the reason she decided to return to college was a conversation she had with three young women in her church in Atlanta, the New Shield of Faith Christian Ministries. This is the same church her husband John Battle, former NBA and Scarlet Knight basketball player, leads.

She told Rutgers Today that the women confided in her about their personal doubts on their ability to return to college, and Belle's initial reaction was to explain to the women the importance of a college education.

“At one point I told them, ‘I need to pray about this,’’’ she said. “But I could hear a voice in my head telling me, ‘you don’t need to pray about this, you need to go back to school, because experience is the best teacher.'”

Belle told Rutgers Today she is happy to report those three young women have returned to school in Georgia, and expressed her excitement and anticipation for her own graduation day.

“This is huge, this is gigantic, this is my ‘Dream in Color,’" she told Rutgers Today. “And every time I think about it, I can't help but smile and thank God."

David Tadros

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