While honorary degrees seem harder to come by—with Arizona State University electing not to confer one upon their commencement speaker, President Barack Obama—the powers that be at The American Film Institute (AFI) was happy to bestow a Doctorate of Fine Arts, honoris causa on speaker Clint Eastwood during their 2009 commencement ceremonies.
Eastwood, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award from AFI in 1996, is being honored once again by the Institute with this honorary degree. The California native has been in the film industry since the mid-1950s and has accumulated many awards, including Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as being nominated for Best Actor. As he reflected on his past works in his commencement speech, including acting in more than 50 films and directing more than 30, he joked that “I would have thought I could have graduated before this.” Now he finally has, joining the likes of Maya Angelou, Roger Ebert, and James Earl Jones, each of whom has received an honorary degree from AFI in the past. Eastwood concluded his speech by advising the graduates “that when they find themselves challenged by the difficulties of making their careers as filmmakers, never to forget that they are artists and to believe in their talent.”