While graduation is often a rite of passage for high-school students embarking on the next chapter of their education, and college students preparing to enter into the workforce, some musicians who got an early start in their careers may not have had the opportunity to experience such milestones themselves due to career obligations. But every so often, artists receive honorary degrees for their achievements from a higher education institution, or are invited to deliver a commencement speech.
Taylor Swift is one artist who has received an honorary doctorate degree of Fine Arts from New York University, and also gave a speech filled with lessons to the graduating class of 2022. In her speech, she encouraged the students to be enthusiastic and try hard at their personal interests, and reminded them that post-college life will offer plenty of mistakes. (Read her full commencement speech here.)
Another is Kanye West, who briefly attended the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University before dropping out to pursue music at the age of 20. He earned his honorary doctorate in 2016 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, while Justin Timberlake received one from the Berklee College of Music in 2019.
Though Lin-Manuel Miranda earned an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan University in 2015, he actually graduated from the college in 2002; he also earned a second honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Ludacris, who attended Georgia State University from 1998 to 1999 and studied music management, later received his honorary doctorate from the college in May 2022. Pharrell Williams is also a former college student turned doctorate degree holder: He attended Northwestern University for two years, and received his honorary doctor’s titles from New York University in 2017, and Norfolk State University in Virginia in 2021.
Here’s a look at musicians who have donned a cap and gown at a graduation, whether receiving a degree or invited to deliver a speech.