Today, May 4th, the University of Florida School of Music will be recognizing Tom Petty with an Honorary Doctorate, a distinction that he dreamed of receiving in his life.
Dr. Petty earned the academic distinction after UF’s board of trustees voted unanimously in 2021 to recognize the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, who was born and raised in Gainesville. His younger brother, Bruce Petty, was invited to accept the degree on his behalf at the spring commencement ceremony, happening today.
Tom’s brother Bruce Petty said in a statement: "I don’t think anyone in our family, including him, thought that he would be linked with the University of Florida this way. It’s such a powerful thing, it was his life-long dream, and I know he would just be over-the-top, crazy happy about it."
UF School of Music director Kevin Orr added that they were “privileged to honor Tom Petty with an honorary doctorate degree in Music, celebrating not only his extraordinary achievements as an artist, but the ways in which his music has and continues to unite us as a community.” Petty was previously awarded the university’s Achievement Award in 2006.
To celebrate, Tom Petty's estate announced an endowment to the University of Florida’s music program, unveiling The Tom Petty Endowment for Guitars & Innovation, which aims to support students enrolled in the Guitar and Music Business & Entrepreneurship programs at UF’s School of Music. The estate gave a $100,000 donation and is also raising money for the endowment by selling reprints of Shepard Fairey’s An American Treasure poster (a portion of which goes to the fund). If you would like to contribute to the program, donations are accepted here.