Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

Tom Petty is on his way to becoming a doctor. On May 4, the late rock legend will receive a posthumous Doctor of Music degree from the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, Florida. Tom’s brother, Bruce Petty, will accept the posthumous degree on his behalf at the university’s spring commencement ceremony. The accolade is one that Petty, who died in 2017 at the age of 66, had hoped to receive his entire life. “I don’t think anyone in our family, including him, expected him to be associated with the University of Florida in this way,” Bruce Petty said in a statement. “It’s a very powerful thing.” It had been his lifelong dream, and I know he would be overjoyed.”

In honor of the degree, the university and Petty’s estate have also collaborated to establish the Tom Petty Endowment for Guitars & Innovation, which will support the next generation of artists studying at the UF School of Music’s Guitar and the university’s new Music Business & Entrepreneurship programs. The Petty estate has also donated $100,000 in his honour to help launch the foundation. Furthermore, 300 limited edition commemorative posters of artist Shepard Fairey’s An American Treasure artwork, which was used for Petty’s 2018 compilation album of the same name, were released exclusively on the Tom Petty store. A percentage of the revenues will also benefit the Tom Petty Endowment for Guitars and Innovation. To commemorate Petty’s degree, the Cade Museum in Gainesville has partnered with the UF School of Music and will host a screening of the 2021 documentary, Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free, which features never-before-seen footage, new interviews, and an inside look into the making of Petty’s second album, Wildflowers, released in 1994. The evening will also include a special Q&A with filmmaker Mary Wharton.

“We in the UF School of Music and College of the Arts are privileged to honor Tom Petty with an honorary doctorate degree in Music, celebrating not only his extraordinary achievements as an artist, but also the ways in which his music has and continues to unite us as a community,” said Kevin Orr, director of the University of Florida School of Music. “Tom Petty’s tireless defense of performing artists’ rights, and his compassionate advocacy for the well-being of his neighbors in every community where he lived, are embodied by the students and faculty of the UF School of Music: commitment to one’s artistic passions, even in the face of challenges; the safeguarding of creative work to ensure unique and lasting impact; and, indeed, the power of music to advance causes for the greater good in society,” Orr continued.

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