Local Current Blog

Prince to receive honorary doctorate from University of Minnesota

The Minneapolis skyline as seen from the University of Minnesota campus circa 2010. (Fibonacci Blue/CC BY 2.0)

This April, Prince will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota — an honor that was being planned prior to his tragically premature death on April 21, 2016. The posthumous presentation will take place in conjunction with “Prince from Minneapolis,” a symposium taking place at the university from April 16-18.

The symposium announced the planned degree today on Twitter, noting that specific details regarding the ceremony will be announced in coming weeks. The symposium’s planned programming is ambitious. As described on its website:

This symposium will investigate Prince’s unique relation to Minneapolis and Minnesota. What demographic, cultural, and economic conditions were in place for Prince to emerge as a musical genius? How was a new sound born from a small African American population in a very white and segregated state? Why did Prince stay there? How did he reinvent the aesthetics and politics of blackness? How did he at the same time win over white and international audiences? How did Minnesotans, both queer and straight, react to Prince’s ambivalent black male sexuality? How is Minneapolis represented in Purple Rain? How do we interpret his spiritual explorations? What kind of utopia did Paisley Park embody? What was Prince’s mode of operation in the studio? How did the Minneapolis sound affect hiphop, jazz, rock, and electronic dance music? Why do music tourists flock to this city from Europe and Australia?

An exhibit of works inspired by Prince is now on display at the university’s Weisman Art Museum in connection with the conference. There’s sure to be substantial overlap between attendance at the symposium and at the second annual Paisley Park Celebration, taking place in the days immediately following the conference as fans acknowledge the passing of two years since Prince’s death.

Prince’s formal education ended after he received a diploma from Central High School, in Minneapolis, in 1976; the school closed in 1982. According to a website maintained by alumni, “Prince didn’t pay much attention to his academic subjects because, he thought, he didn’t need to because he was going to be a star. He was absolutely right.”