Photo: Getty
  /  12.13.2021

Mega-producer Pharrell Williams can now add honorary doctorate to his list of accolades. On Saturday (Dec. 11), President Javaune Adams-Gaston presented the legendary beatmaker with the degree from Norfolk State University, a school he’s frequented over the years. The surprise honor sparked tears from The Neptunes star moments after he delivered an inspirational speech to graduating students.

As local news outlets reported, Williams attended the graduation after being tapped as its commencement speaker. During the address, he encouraged graduates to support local businesses and expressed excitement about their future.

“We are the emerging majority,” he explained. “Don’t wait until Election Day. Vote with your wallets today, tomorrow and the next day.”

“I didn’t attend Norfolk State, but I was always present,” the singer continued. “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.”

Williams, who criticized Virginia Beach for its response to the police-involved shooting of his cousin Donovon Lynch, encouraged the students to “dismantle the power structure” and “create a city you deserve.” He also praised NSU‘s Spartan Legion marching band as he reminisced on memories of hearing them as a child.

“I wanted to be able to make people feel the way Norfolk State’s band made me feel,” the producer explained. Moments later, as Adams-Gaston awarded him his honorary doctorate degree, Williams learned he was the newest member of the marching band. He was named an honorary member of Spartan Legion, receiving a uniform that made it all official.

See below for clips and images of Pharrell at Norfolk State University‘s graduation.

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