You don’t have to be a genius to know that celebrities are often given honorary degrees by some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world. Check out this list and put a lil doctor in your Diddy.
The first honorary degree was given out at Oxford in 1478 to the brother-in-law of the King. It was the first in a long line of honoring the rich and famous with academic degrees, and the trend has only become more popular over time. Well over half (64%) of the honorary degrees Harvard University has given out since 1752 have been in the last 15 years. Bill Cosby has over 100 honorary degrees, and one real Ph.D. Sometimes these awards go to heavy handed donors, other times they are used to entice celebrities to speak at their graduation ceremonies (which can help snag the school some positive press and gives the celebrity hella bragging rights.) Cornell, Stanford, and UCLA are among those who refuse to participate in the tradition, but it remains an important fundraising tool for many of our most prestigious institutions.
1. . Kanye West
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) awarded West an honorary doctorate for his "transformative, genre-defying work.” True to his belief in a complete lack of humility, West said at the ceremony: “This honor is gonna make your lives easier," he said. "Two reasons: You don't have to defend me as much and I'm going to make all of our lives easier. And it's these Floyd Mayweather belts that are needed to prove what I've been saying my entire life. Whether it's the cosign of Paul McCartney grabbing me and saying, 'It's okay he doesn't bite white people.' Or The New York Times cover. Or the Time 'Most Influential' cover. And now, a doctorate at the Art Institute of Chicago.” West dropped out of SAIC as an undergraduate.
2. . Kermit the Frog
Perhaps the honorary degree most blamed for being a pure publicity stunt, Kermit the Frog was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters from Southampton College, NY in 1996. The ceremony was covered by 31 newspapers and a huge bump in admissions applications to to the college.
3. . Oprah Winfrey
Oprah received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard in May 2013. Before that, she received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Duke in 2009 and a Fine Arts degree from Princeton in 2002. Check out a link to her commencement speech above. You get a college degree! And YOU get a college degree!
4. . Conan O’Brien
Conan earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, getting his start in late-night style joke writing at The Harvard Lampoon, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth in 2011. Among the plenty of jokes in his commencement speech, Conan teased, “for many of you, your sexual orientation has changed. For some of you it changed since I began my speech. I know mine has.”
5. . Courtney Love
Courtney Love has an honorary degree from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, which she attended for two semesters in the early 1980’s. During the ceremony, she inadvertently left the tag on her D&G jacket. She was all, "mea culpa, dudes. Back off."
6. . John Legend
The man, the myth, the John Legend received an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 where he also delivered the commencement address. He graduated from UPenn in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in African-American literature and culture.
7. . LL Cool J
Dr. Cool J received an honorary doctorate from Northeastern University at his daughter’s graduation. Dr. Cool J, neé James Todd Smith, dropped out of high school in 1984 when he signed with Def Jam Records. Of the award, he said, “It made me feel real proud because I know she put a lot of hard work in, a lot of dedication, a lot of commitment and a lot of hours.” Next stop for the rap mogul? Learning how to use adverbs.
8. . Sean Combs
Fallon received his bachelor's degree and an honorary doctorate at the same time from the College of Saint Rose, the same institution from which he dropped out in the 1990’s for a shot at the big time. He graduated with the class of 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
11. . Magic Johnson
Johnson totes an honorary Doctorate of Business from Xavier University. To be fair, he’s worth an estimated $500 million so maybe he’s earned that title of “Dr. Magic.”
12. . Robert DeNiro
High school drop out Robert DeNiro received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bates College during his 2012 commencement speech, which was both funny and irreverent to the concept of higher learning. In his speech, he said, “In many ways, leaving school when I did it was an advantage. I saved nearly $6,000 by not having to pay tuition and expenses for four years of education. I feel a little foolish, because if I had waited until now not to go to college, I could have saved around a quarter of a million.”
13. . Chaka Khan
The star behind I’m Every Woman has an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College.
14. . Aretha Franklin
The Queen holds a dirty dozen honorary degrees, including doctorates from Princeton, Yale, Berklee College of Music and Harvard. How’s that for a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t? Also honored with her in 2014 at Harvard was George H.W. Bush and Michael R. Bloomberg.
15. . Viola Davis
The actress graduated from Juilliard as an undergraduate in 1993, and was asked back in 2014 to receive her Honorary Doctorate. For the record, Davis also has a pair of Oscar nominations, an Emmy, two Tony’s and three Drama Desk Awards. Oh, to be a fly on her mantle…