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Tom Petty receives posthumous honorary doctorate in music

Mark Seliger

It breaks our hearts to know he'll never get to hear himself addressed as Dr. Petty.

The late, great Tom Petty was given an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Florida last Friday.

The school's board of trustees voted unanimously to honor the Heartbreakers frontman, who was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. He didn’t actually attend the school, but according to the Associated Press, he worked as a groundskeeper there prior to achieving worldwide fame.

“[He’s] widely considered among the most distinctive and influential musicians over the past 50 years,” UF provost Joseph Glover said during the ceremony according to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times. “His presence remains significant as seen by abundant radio airplay and the popularity of events such as the Tom Petty birthday bash held in Gainesville. On the UF campus, Petty’s famous ‘I Won’t Back Down’ has become a mantra at athletic events and I personally have heard President [Kent] Fuchs sing it.”

Four years after Petty’s death, Gators fans continue to sing "I Won’t Back Down" at every home game.

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.