Pearl Mae Bailey was an American singer and actress. She is probably most remembered for her role as matchmaker “Dolly Gallagher Levi” in David Merrick’s production of Hello Dolly!—a part first created on Broadway by Carol Channing. The all-black version of Hello Dolly! played on Broadway from 1967 to 1969, and garnered Bailey the theater’s highest honor, the Tony Award.
Bailey was given an honorary degree by Georgetown University in 1978, and while receiving her award onstage she told the audience that she planned to return to college there the following year. In 1985, after five years of studying she graduated with a B.A. in Theology at the age of 67. Bailey’s first major was French. When asked why she switched from French to Theology she allegedly said, “Because it’s easier to know the Lord than it is to know French.”