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I’m Famous! Now Where’s My Honorary Degree?


I recently stumbled upon a new term — “honorary degree.” Having never heard it before, I decided to do some research. What is it? Who gets one? What is it actually worth? Here’s the scoop on honorary degrees if you’ve ever wondered what in the heck they are.

honorary degreeWhat is an honorary degree?

An honorary degree is a degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as actually attending classes, writing papers, studying for exams — the things that are generally expected of students. Essentially, it’s a way of honoring a distinguished person for a contribution they have made in a particular field or to society as a whole.

Despite the fact that the recipient isn’t an actual student of that school, an honorary degree is still considered academic and is usually either a doctorate or master’s degree. The best part is, recipients of an honorary degree do not need to have any prior affiliation with the school. Sounds crazy, right? But it exists!

Who gets honorary degrees?

Generally awarded at graduation ceremonies, honorary degrees are usually given to famous people who attract a lot of hype and publicity. The recipients are usually asked to make an acceptance speech before the faculty and graduates. So both sides win — the school gets the publicity and media coverage, and the celebrity gets bragging rights and a tasseled hat.

What is an honorary degree really worth?

Unless awarded to a person who has made some great academic achievement, honorary degrees are worth little. After all, who’s going to take a degree that Kermit the Frog has seriously?

Celebrities with Honorary Degrees

Here are just a few examples of celebrities who have been awarded honorary degrees. Some of these make sense, others … not so much.

  • Jon Bon Jovi: honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Monmouth University
  • Yoko Ono: honorary Doctorate of Laws from Liverpool University
  • Dolly Parton: honorary doctorate degree from Carson-Newman College
  • Maya Angelou: more than 30 honorary degrees
  • Kermit the Frog: honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters from Southampton College
  • Stephen Colbert: honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from Knox College
  • Tim Allen: honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Western Michigan University
  • Tom Selleck: honorary doctorate from Pepperdine University
  • Mike Tyson: honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Central State University
  • Benjamin Franklin: two honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale

So there you have it, folks. Though an honorary degree may have seemed like the easy way out of college, it turns out you pretty much have to get famous to get one — and that’s probably more difficult than simply completing your degree the old-fashioned way.

Know of any more deserving or undeserving celebrities that have been awarded honorary degrees? Please share!



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