USC to award six honorary degrees at commencement

Those receiving degrees include well-known philanthropists, entertainers and athletes.

USC announced six honorary degree recipients for the 2022 commencement ceremony, including a track and field Olympian, a journalist and scholar and several members of the film industry.

The university has a long-standing tradition of awarding honorary degrees each year at commencement to recipients both inside and outside of the Trojan family who are chosen by a committee of students and faculty. This year’s honorary degrees will be awarded on May 13 at Alumni Memorial Park.

“Honorary degrees are given to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public,” according to USC’s Honorary Degree site.

The university has chosen six honorees this year, including Allyson Felix, Bina Venkataram, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Frank Price and David Bohnett.

Felix, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the USC Rossier School of Education in 2008, went on to become an 11-time Olympic medalist in track and field. She won her first medal, a silver, in Athens when she was a sophomore at USC, and won her first gold shortly after graduating. Felix is considered to be the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in history.

In 2021, Felix joined the board of College Track, a program that helps students from low-income communities achieve their post-high school goals. She is also active in women’s advocacy and was part of influencing Nike to make changes to its maternity policy and increase financial protection for pregnant athletes. She was also chosen as the USC commencement speaker.

Along with Felix, another Trojan alumnus will also be receiving an honorary degree. USC Trustee David Bohnett graduated from USC’s Marshall School of Business in 1978 and has earned multiple awards including the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Technology Leader of the Year. Bohnett pledged $15 million in 2016 to endow the University Village’s David C. Bohnett Residential College.

“I am deeply humbled to receive this Honorary Doctorate from my beloved alma mater, USC,” Bohnett wrote in a statement to Annenberg Media. “From my days as a student giving campus tours to, today, serving as a Trustee of USC, it has been working with others in service to our larger community that has always held the most importance and meaning to me. … I am profoundly honored to receive this recognition.”

Bina Venkataraman, a science journalist and USC’s 2021 commencement speaker will also receive an honorary degree. Venkataraman has worked for The New York Times and The Boston Globe, where she served as the editorial page editor from 2019 to 2022 and is now editor-at-large. She was also senior adviser for climate change innovation to the Obama administration.

“Giving the 2021 Commencement address was an extraordinary honor and a great deal of fun for me,” Venkataraman wrote in a statement to Annenberg Media. “It is moving and meaningful to be invited back to USC this year — and even more so to receive an honorary doctorate from a university whose students and faculty are taking on the big challenges and questions of our time with rigor, compassion, and creativity.”

Additionally, USC will award three honorary degrees to entertainment industry professionals.

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard will be one of them. Known for his start as a child actor in “The Andy Griffith Show” Howard made his directorial debut in 1977, and is now commonly known for films such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and TV shows like “Arrested Development.” Howard attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for several years but did not graduate.

Brian Grazer is another entertainment industry professional and SCA alumnus receiving a degree this April. Grazer has over 200 awards won throughout his career, including Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards. He is a film and TV producer with credits ranging from “tick, tick…BOOM!,” which had several Oscar nominations. He also worked on the 2002 Best Picture winner “A Beautiful Mind,” which is shared with fellow honoree Ron Howard.

Lastly, Frank Price, former chair of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors, is a studio executive and producer of films like “Back to the Future.” He has won 20 Academy Awards. Additionally, the U.S. Senate confirmed Price as a member of the National Council on the Arts in 2006, where he served for six years.

This will be USC’s first honorary degree ceremony since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.