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

The (honorary!) doctor is here! Celebrities receive honorary degrees from colleges all over the country for their achievements in the business and art worlds.

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 not a side effect, it is a result. Being a hater isn’t cool — nobody wants that. Hate is rooted in 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.”

Some celebrities have the opportunity to receive honorary doctorates, which allow them to live a piece of college life that they may not have had the chance to. In May 2014, DiddyHe spoke to Howard University graduates in Washington D.C. where he studied for two years before deciding to go into the music industry. “If I didn’t leave school early, I would have been more prepared,” the rapper, 52, said during his commencement speech.

Diddy, despite leaving Howard after his sophomore year, admitted that he still valued the time spent at Howard and often reminisces about 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.”

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