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‘I Was Always Present’: Pharrell Williams Receives Honorary Doctorate from Norfolk State University

Pharrell Williams is more than “happy” after receiving yet another doctorate degree.

The record producer was presented with the honorary doctorate degree after giving a speech to the 400 students graduating from Norfolk State University in Virginia. But the surprise did not stop there. Javaune Adams-Gaston, university president, also named Williams as an honorary band member of the Spartan Legion Band, which ultimately moved him to tears.

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 07: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY – For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House). Pharrell Williams attends the Chanel Metiers D’Art 2021-2022 show at Le 19M on December 07, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Williams, who is from Virginia himself, began the commencement speech by encouraging the students and talking about his own experience with the institution. He said, “I didn’t attend Norfolk State, but I was always present. The pull of the green and the gold is strong. I am honored to have made this part of my work, my story, and still today, I can’t wait to see how far you amazing, impressive graduates of Norfolk State … how far you’ll go.”

The 48-year-old went on to explain to the students why their next steps should be to invest in local business and also explained why the word “minorities” should be eradicated. He said, “We are the emerging majority. Don’t wait until Election Day. Vote with your wallets today, tomorrow, and the next day. Does the business owner look like you? Shop there.”

This is not the first time Williams has been honored with a doctorate degree. Four years ago, he spoke at New York University’s graduation and applauded the students for being pioneers in change that was taking place regarding social justice and equal rights for women.

He said, “Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principles and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back. Imagine the possibilities when women are not held back. The world that you will live in that will be a lot better. This is the first generation that navigates with the security and confidence to treat women as equals.”


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