Celebration of Black Men Award

Each year the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Delta Psi Omega Chapter, presents “A Celebration of Black Men” Event. This is a ceremony in which they select five black men whose work is outstanding in their fields. They honor men from each of the following categories: the arts, community service, economics, education, health, and trailblazers. In 2015 John E. Lawrence was selected to be one of the honorees of this prestigious award for his work in the field of the arts. 

The State of Michigan Special Tribute Award

On May 4, 2015, John E. Lawrence retired from Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor Michigan, where he served as a professional instructor, the head of the Music Performance Program, and the Chair of the Performing Arts Department. During his tenure at WCC, John developed: 22 courses, three music performance certificate programs, wrote 16 instructional books on guitar performance, and developed and produced his legendary Living Legend Series. Governor Rick Snyder presented The State of Michigan Special Tribute Award to John Lawrence for 36 years of service and for his remarkable achievements at Washtenaw Community College and to the greater community as a whole.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Ypsilanti High School

Ypsilanti High School has a lengthy history, and has existed since 1849. In 2003 a wall honoring the school’s distinguished alumni was established. Of the many students who have passed through the halls of Ypsilanti High School, twenty students, including John E. Lawrence, were selected for the wall and their photographs are proudly displayed for all to see.  

Living Legends Award

The Living Legend Award was presented to John E. Lawrence for successfully producing five Living Legend Award Series for five consecutive years. This series has been the most successful event that Washtenaw Community College has experienced in the college’s entire existence. 

The Living Legend Award Series brought  more  notoriety, has  generated  more  news  coverage,  and  has  spread more  goodwill throughout the campus and the community at large than any other event. At the end of the day, the production pays for itself financially. John’s conception of the Living Legends Series and hard work has made it possible for musical giants such as Mavis Staples, The Four Tops, Ashford and Simpson, Earl Klugh, and The Temptations to grace the campus of Washtenaw Community College, and for that we are eternally grateful. You are WCC’s own “Living Legend”.


Bill Abernethy Dean of Humanities and Social Science. 

A Performance at Carnegie Hall

In May 1989 at 7:30 PM, a Jazz Cavalcade was held at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. The Washtenaw Community College Jazz Orchestra under the Direction of Dr. Morris J. Lawrence was among the performing groups. Dr. Lawrence, a prolific composer and arranger and the performance consists of primarily of his compositions. However; John E Lawrence (no relation) was featured on his original composition titled “Feel The Groove.” On the left is a copy of the actual program and the program listing from that performance.

The Morris Lawrence Award

The Morris Lawrence Award was established in 1994 to honor the late Dr. Morris J. Lawrence, Jr., an educator, composer, and music historian who spread tremendous goodwill throughout the college and community. “Doc” was the Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Director of the award-winning WCC Jazz Orchestra. He insisted that his students and those around him do their best and nothing less. He was loved and revered by students and faculty alike. He would be proud to know that these recipients, who possess the very important qualities that he held dear, were chosen to receive an award named in his honor. In May of 2008, John Lawrence received the highest level award presented to an instructor at Washtenaw Community College. “This award is extra special and dear to my heart because the award was named after my friend and mentor Dr. Morris J. Lawrence, Jr.” John E. Lawrence

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Award 2007

In 2007 lifelong friend Duane Freeman invited John E. Lawrence to accompany him to Washington DC to perform at the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony. This award displays a Christmas card signed by President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in gratitude for their performance at the White House.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Award 2008

In 2008, the Washtenaw Community College Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of John E. Lawrence, was invited to perform at the National Christmas tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington DC. This award displays a photograph of the WCC Jazz Orchestra and an actual program from the performance which has a photograph of the National Christmas tree with the White House in the background.

Mel Bay Publications Award 2001

Presented to John E. Lawrence, author of a three-book /CD collection entitled “Improvising Solos for Guitar,” “Chord Melody Solos,” and “Walking Bass Solos.” Each book has an accompanying CD with John demonstrating the exercises and songs from each book.  John’s guitar instruction books have been used as textbooks for his Jazz Guitar Courses at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan since they were first published in 2001. The Jazz Guitar Courses have played an important role in the WCC’s Music Performance Program. The books are sold to guitar students worldwide.