Honorary Degrees from All Ivies

By our count, Ruth Simmons has received six Ivy League honorary degrees.

In the world of entertainment, an EGOT — short for a person winning an Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony — is a rare feat. Even rarer? The PEGOT — a person who has won a Peabody, Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony. We personally have the “P” for a Peabody win for executing producing Showtime’s acclaimed The Good Lord Bird. The show also won an Emmy and the star was nominated for a Golden Globe. But, alas, those don’t count towards the PEGOT tally. It got us thinking about awards in the world of elite universities — or, namely, honorary degrees. You know. The honorees at commencement exercises. Have any of these folks ever received an honorary degree from each of eight Ivy League institutions?

Down the rabbit hole we went. We couldn’t find anyone — not a soul who has received an honorary degree from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, UPenn, and Cornell. But who comes the closest by our count? Ruth Simmons, the first Black president of an Ivy League school (she led Brown for many years), has received honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, and UPenn. That’s six by our count. Yale and Cornell have to date yet to confer an honorary degree to the leading academic administrator (who has accrued a host more from other elite institutions outside the Ivies). And who else has received multiple Ivy League honorary doctorates? The celebrated actress Meryl Streep and the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin have each been conferred three honorary degrees by Ivy League institutions: Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Oprah? By our records, she’s only got one from Harvard among the Ivies. Hey, she’s busy!

Admittedly, the records of honorary degrees aren’t well consolidated. As an example, the late great humanitarian Elie Wiesel, our commencement speaker, received over 90 honorary doctorates in his lifetime, but only some are listed on his Wikipedia page. The man sure was on the commencement circuit! So if you happen to have a record of anyone who has received more honorary degrees from Ivy League institutions than the esteemed Ruth Simmons, let us know and we’ll be sure to update this post.

 
 

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