Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has earned his doctorate from Barry University. On Saturday, O’Neal and 1100 other students including his manager participated in commencement ceremonies. According to witnesses, O’Neal made his way across the stage in a custom made XXXL gown and high-fived other students as he made it to his seat.
O’Neal graduated with a degree in Organizational Learning and Leadership with a specialization in Human Resource Development. It took O’Neal four years to complete his degree and he graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 3.8. His capstone project was titled “How Leaders Utilize Humor or Seriousness in Leadership Styles.” He stayed for the whole ceremony and his mother and other family members were present.
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What a pleasure to hear about a black male professional athlete doing something admirable in the realm of education—a realm that produces a yearly drumbeat of horrendous stories about black male athletes with low GPAs, low graduation rates, lowly commitments to education. Low, low, low. While Shaq has always been a bundle of contradictions—such as uttering controversial statements like his offensive pidgin Chinese when mocking star Yao Ming—no one has ever accused him of not being smart. The fact that he was busy pursuing a Ph.D. in education—something he clearly doesn’t need to advance his post-NBA career—while playing basketball shows that he is interested and concerned about issues that the public typically doesn’t connect to the modern athlete. When it comes to choosing role models for our youngsters, perhaps Shaq deserves a closer look.