The university will recognize the singer for co-writing 1985 charity single "We Are the World," as well as its 2010 re-recording to benefit Haiti and his advocacy and fundraising for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
"The students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation are pleased to present the 2011 Humanitarian Award to Mr. Lionel Richie in memory of the late Reverend Peter J. Gomes," Dr. S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, said in a statement. "Richie is one of our nation's most creative musical artists who has inspired many through his artistic and philanthropic endeavors."
The annual prize has been given to a wide range of honorees, from actors Sharon Stone and James Earl Jones to pilot Chesley Sullenberger and Nobel Peace Prize comittee head Thorbjørn Jagland.
Richie's next album, the country duets collection "Tuskegee," is due in March.