Black Panther’s Angela Bassett and More Stars Who Have Honorary Degrees


The (honorary) doctor is in! Every year, colleges around the country award celebrities honorary degrees for their accomplishments in the art or business world.

In May 2014, John Legend returned to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, adding an honorary doctorate of music to the bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in African-American literature and culture he earned at the school to his wall. “The reason I’ve had a wonderful journey so far, is because I’ve found love,” the singer said during his commencement address at U Penn’s graduation ceremony. “The key to success is opening up your mind and your heart to love and spending your time doing things you love with people you love.”

He added: “We’re taught when we’re young that the opposite of love is hate, but it’s not. Hate is a byproduct, hate is a result. Being a hater isn’t cool — nobody wants that. But hate comes from one thing: fear. Fear is the opposite of love.”

Legend received a second honorary degree when he spoke at Duke University’s commencement ceremony in May 2021. “Your class lost a lot: some lost job offers, some lost loved ones, and all of you last a whole year those little moments that make college so special,” the “All of Me” singer told the Class of 2021. “I feel your pain. You’ve lost something that you won’t get back. I won’t sugarcoat that. It sucks.” Legend went on to suggest that the coronavirus pandemic helped the graduates learn the importance of taking time to pause and reflect on what they wanted out of life.

“But over the past year, you were forced to pause, to see yourselves not just in competition with one another, but in community with each other. … We all had to slow down, social distance, cover our faces, stop filling our days with maximum productivity and simply keep each other safe, keep each other alive, care for one another,” he said at the time. “And this perspective you gained will serve us all, because while that competitive drive that got you here can be an incredible gift, it can get in the way, too.”

Honorary doctorates also offer some celebrities the chance to live out a piece of the college experience that they may have missed out on. In May 2014, Diddy spoke to graduates of Howard University in Washington D.C., which he attended for two years before dropping out to pursue a career in the music business. “If I didn’t leave school early, I would have been more prepared,” the rapper, 52, said during his commencement speech.

Despite leaving the school after his sophomore year, Diddy confessed that he still values the time he did spend at Howard and often looked back on it fondly. After being fired from his first job at Uptown Records in 1993, the “Bad Boys For Life” performer was in a bad place, while all of his friends were graduating and their lives were just beginning. “I had to decide to be my own light [in the darkness],” he told students. “One day, you’re going to be sitting in the dark like I was, thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ In that moment, I want you to remember the power in you.”

Keep scrolling to see even more stars who have received honorary degrees:

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