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Honorary Degrees

Other than the earned doctorate, the greatest recognition the University of Florida can give an individual is an honorary degree. Such awards are not given lightly, and relatively few are awarded. The awarding of an honorary degree is recognition of eminent achievement in scholarship or high distinction in public service which exemplifies the purposes and ideals of the University of Florida. More particularly, honorary degrees are awarded for sustained achievements of lasting significance and value, not for a single accomplishment.

The University of Florida awarded its first honorary degree in 1909 to Andrew Sledd, in recognition of his four years of service as the first president of the University of Florida. The first female recipient of an honorary degree was prominent Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1941.

This page honors recipients of honorary doctorates in music and fine arts. For a complete list of recipients or for more information on honorary degrees from the University of Florida, visit the Honors and Awards section of the University of Florida Office of the President website.

Honorary Doctorates in Music and Fine Arts Conferred by University of Florida

(MusD – Doctorate of Music; DFA – Doctorate of Fine Art)

James Melton, MusD
Awarded: May 1945
UF alumnus, 1921-23. Prominent actor, artist and singer. Appeared with Metropolitan Opera Association. Melton has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for radio and the other for recording.

Aaron Copland, MusD
Awarded: March 1972
Outstanding musician, conductor and American nationalist composer of concert, ballet and film music. Known as “the dean of American composers,” Copland achieved a balance between modern music and American folk styles.

Allen S. Weller, DFA
Awarded: December 1977
Art historian, critic and teacher. Noted author on contemporary American art. Established Krannert Art Museum in Illinois.

Nancy Hanks, DFA
Awarded: June 1979
Second chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon and served from 1969 to 1977, continuing her service under President Gerald R. Ford. During this period, Hanks was active in the fight to save the historic Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. from demolition. In 1983, it was officially renamed the Nancy Hanks Center, in her honor, and today houses the offices of the NEA, among others.

David Cofrin, DFA
Awarded: August 1993
Gainesville MD and philanthropist, his many gifts included the basic funding for the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida.

Edward Villella, DFA
Awarded: May 2005
American ballet dancer and choreographer, often cited as America’s “most celebrated male dancer.” Recipient of Kennedy Center Honors and National Medal of the Arts and founder of Miami City Ballet.

Ellas Otha Bates McDaniel, pka Bo Diddley, DFA
Awarded: Summer 2008
American rock and roll vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and inventor. He was known as "The Originator" because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was known in particular for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar. Degree given to his family posthumously.

Stanley Drucker, MusD
Awarded: April 2010
Principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic; Holds Guinness World Record for “longest career as a clarinetist.”

Arnold Mesches, DFA
Awarded: April 2010
Visual artist with over 125 solo exhibitions with work represented in places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, Los Angeles County Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in Sydney; Mesches served as guest faculty at University of Florida’s School of Art + Art History while living in Gainesville with his wife, novelist Jill Ciment.

Karel Husa, MusD
Awarded: April 2011
Karel Husa is a Czech-born classical composer and conductor. Husa received a Pulitzer Prize (1969) for his String Quartet No. 3 and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Music Compostion (1993) for his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Among Husa's most popular compositions is Music for Prague 1968, a work in memory of the 1968 Soviet bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia. From 1954 until 1992 he was a professor at Cornell University and lecturer at Ithaca College from 1967 to 1986.

William King, DFA
Awarded: April 2011
William King is a contemporary American sculptor born in Jacksonville, Florida. The figurative portrayal of human figures is common in his work, spanning countless media. After attending the University of Florida, King moved to New York in 1945 and graduated from Cooper Union in 1948. His style comprises mostly abstraction and pop art. During the years of 1994 to 1998, he served as the president of the National Academy of Design. In 2007, King was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award given by the International Sculpture Center.

Daniel Lewis, DFA
Awarded: December 2012
Daniel Lewis, founding dean of dance of New World School of the Arts in Miami, was honored for his leadership in dance and education in an artistic discipline. In 2010, the National Dance Educators Organization awarded Mr. Lewis its Lifetime Achievement Award, paying tribute to his many years as a dancer, choreographer, educator and administrator. Upon retiring from his position at New World School of the Arts, Mr. Lewis said, "I am now on a personal crusade to put dance in every school K through 12."

Jerry Uelsmann, DFA
Awarded: December 2012
Jerry Uelsmann taught at UF from 1960 to 1998 where he helped to establish a creative photography program, one of the first fine art photography programs in the United States. Mr. Uelsmann had his first major museum solo show in 1967 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and published his first book of images in 1970. Throughout his highly-praised career, nine monographs have been published on his work and Uelsmann has been the subject of more than 100 international solo exhibitions. In his own words: "It is my conviction that the darkroom is capable of being, in the truest sense, a visual research lab; a place for discovery, observation, and meditation." Mr. Uelsmann lives in Gainesville with his wife and UF alumna-artist Maggie Taylor.


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