Each June most of the nation’s 1,767 colleges and universities bestow honorary degrees. Among this year’s deserving recipients are Israel’s Golda Meir (Wellesley), archeologist Mary Leakey (Yale), poet Richard Wilbur (Rochester), Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh (Davidson) and President Gerald Ford (Warner Pacific). On the other hand, there are always a few honorary degrees that may strike the casual observer as baffling. Do they publicize the school? (The answer is on these pages.) Raise money? (A celeb who gets a degree often helps shake down the alumni with personal appearances.) In any case, here is a sample of this year’s nonscholarly recipients, all of whom are now entitled to be addressed as “Doctor.”
Frank Sinatra of Hoboken, N.J. owns a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Univ. of Nevada at Las Vegas. Last year his benefit raised half a million dollars for the school. His reaction? “I can finally tell my mother I graduated.”
Chicken king Frank Perdue, who usually associates with clucks, gets a Doctor of Science degree from Franklin Pierce, Rindge, N.H. The reason: he pioneered a breeding process “resulting in more white meat.”
After getting a Doctor of Fine Arts from Carnegie-Mellon, Pittsburgh, Mr. Rogers, star of public TV’s oldest kid show, serenaded the audience with his own song, ‘It’s You I Like.’
In Davenport, Iowa, Bob Hope adds a Doctorate of Public Service from St. Ambrose College to his list of honorary degrees. “Now that you have a degree,” he told the graduates, “you know what work you’re out of.” He later noted, “This is my 33rd doctorate and I still can’t understand Bill Buckley.”
His wife, June, and their four daughters were on hand when country star Johnny Cash was gift-wrapped in his Doctor of Humane Letters from National University in San Diego. “All of us are in his debt,” the citation read.
Dingbat Jean Stapleton, accepting a Doctor of Humane Letters from Monmouth College, West Long Branch, N.J., chortled, “Today, unquestionably, was Edith Bunker’s finest hour.”