UCSD Alumni


James Avery Memorial


A Tribute to Actor James Avery

James Avery ’76 was a famed actor, poet, friend and family man on and off the set, and one of UC San Diego’s celebrated Triton alumni. He was best known as Uncle Phil, the patriarch to Will Smith on television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

A native of Atlantic City, NJ, he joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school and served in Vietnam. Upon leaving the military, James moved to San Diego and began writing television scripts and poetry for PBS. He won an Emmy and later received a scholarship to Marshall College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Literature.

James was a strong champion of UC San Diego and Thurgood Marshall College, returning often as a featured guest and Commencement speaker. In 1993, UCSD Alumni recognized James with the Professional Achievement Award for his remarkable and diverse body of television and film work, premature in the context of his prolific career that stretched over decades. In 2010, James performed a one-person show on the life of Thurgood Marshall as part of the college’s 40th anniversary. In 2012, he received the highest college honor for career achievement – The Marshall College Medal.

Tribute Event

We invite you to join in honoring James at a campus memorial. The University will be remembering his life, career, and legacy at this special event featuring speakers and performances.

Saturday, March 1

Mandell Weiss Forum
9500 Gilman Dr. #0344
La Jolla, CA 92093

Seating is limited; please R.S.V.P. today. Use password “Avery”.

James Avery Memorial Scholarship

James was proud of his UC San Diego education and he believed strongly in giving back to the University. He and his wife, Barbara ’74, gave back to the campus and students in many ways.

The James Avery Memorial Scholarship is a fund that has been established by friends and family in memory of James. The family intends for the gifts in this fund to be awarded to students pursuing studies in the performing arts, with a preference for those enrolled in Thurgood Marshall College that are also African American . The awards will be administered in compliance with the student to fund matching criteria permitted under the university’s Proposition 209 guidelines.

Please join us in ensuring that James’ commitment to Marshall College and to supporting young Tritons in the arts continues. With your support, Barbara will receive a card that includes your name as someone who made a gift in honor of her husband’s legacy.