Former frontman for the Punk band Black Flag, Henry Rollins, is a lot of things. He’s a singer, a writer, an activist, an actor, a spoken-word artist, a radio show host, a columnist for LA Weekly, and now, he’s also a doctor of letters, thanks to an honorary degree from Woodbury University.
In 2014, Rollins was awarded the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award by Woodbury University in Burbank, California, and after delivering a speech, accepting the award, and meeting faculty and staff, the university’s president asked Rollins if he would deliver the commencement speech to Woodbury’s graduating class of 2015. He readily accepted, and had no idea that event would also see him receiving an honorary degree. The idea that he would be the recipient of an honorary degree, he says, is hilarious, considering the kind of student he was, having never received more than a high school leaving degree.
“I went to high school to get it over with, never once considering what I would do when I hit the real world. For the last 30-plus years, my life has been a prolonged ricochet, bouncing from one thing to another — moving, but not always with a great deal of calculation.
After I finished [delivering the commencement speech], I was given an honorary degree, which is hilarious considering what an appalling student I was.”
His speech to the 400-plus students contained all the dramatic, poetic flair that Rollins has become known for as a spoken word artist, as he encouraged the students to continue learning, and thanked each of them for pursuing a higher education degree that he believes will serve to make the world a better place.
“Pardon me if this seems somewhat naïve, but my belief in this is unshakable. Educated people make the world a better place. They make it safer. They make systems run more efficiently. They make resources more sustainable. They mercilessly attack misery and cruelty, and eventually they win. There is only one part of your body that will truly evolve – your mind. Through pursuing higher education, this is what you have prioritized, and I cannot thank you enough.”
Though Henry Rollins receiving an honorary degree is probably the height of irony, according to him, to those who’ve watched him grow from the 80s Punk bad-boy to the intelligent, outspoken, and eloquent poet and social activist he is today, that honorary degree is well deserved.
Woodbury Board of Trustees member Larry Shoaf, Ph.D, also received an honorary degree that day, honoring his 25 years of service on the board.