Music mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs can now add “Doctor” to his long list of titles. The singer, song-writer, producer, actor, and entrepreneur has been honored by his alma mater, Howard University, with an honorary doctorate in Humanities. Combs received the degree from the prestigious historically black college’s class of 2014 where Combs also addressed graduates with the commencement speech.
The ceremony was a welcome home for Sean Combs who attended Howard University back in the 1980’s as a business administration major. Combs would find himself dropping out of school to pursue an internship at Uptown records, subsequently rising up the ranks to the position of Vice President responsible for selecting and developing a number of today’s most successful artists winning a string of accolades and awards.
Chosen by the school for his entrepreneurial spirit, during Saturday’s commencement ceremony, Sean Combs spoke to the graduates of his alma mater in what was described as an inspirational and endearing speech on success, dreaming big, and making those dreams come true. While Combs gave the address, he was not the only noteworthy recipient of an honorary doctorate from the school. Howard University bestowed honorary degrees to a number of individuals considered trailblazers in their chosen professions. Those who also donned cap and gown and received degrees were surgeon Clive Callender, jazz musician Benny Golson, CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer, and Indra Nooyi, Chief Executive Officer of Pepsi.
Sean Combs as the choice to deliver the commencement speech and even receive an honorary doctorate was met with some controversy by members of the student body. Some graduates thought that Combs was unfit to address the graduating class since he had never matriculated through post secondary education. Minds were quickly changed as Combs confessed that despite attaining phenomenal success in his career, he regrets never finishing his years at Howard and getting his degree. In his speech, the 44-year-old media magnate used his life as a template, encouraging the graduates that while life will lead them down different and unexpected paths, success in any form is still attainable. Sean Combs reflected on the moment in his life when he was ultimately fired from his job at Uptown records, with a baby on the way, and a house he could not afford all during the same year he would have graduated from Howard.
Sean Combs demonstrated to the class of 2014 that one has the power to invent and reinvent themselves as highlighted in his constantly changing names from “Puffy,” “P. Diddy,” and “Puff Daddy.” Combs, in a career that has branched out from music executive behind the scenes to taking his talents center stage, has had a stint on Broadway, launched a clothing line, a brand of vodka and most recently debuted his own music television cable network called Revolt.
Coming full circle with this return to his alma mater, Sean Combs now joins a list of those who have previously received honorary doctorate degrees from the esteemed school including Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Hillary Clinton. Also adding to that company of names, Howard University’s class of 2014 had the largest number of PhD graduates in the school’s history. With this fact, Sean Combs says that is all the more reason to call him “Dr. Combs.”
By Hal Banfield