Norfolk State University Presents Pharrell Williams with Honorary Degree During Commencement

Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native, is overcome with emotion after Norfolk State President Javaune Adams-Gaston presented him with a framed NSU band uniform Saturday. “We are the emerging majority,” Williams told graduates of the Historically Black College and University. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

In addition to nearly 400 new alumni crossing the stage Saturday, Norfolk State University also gained a noted graduate — Virginia Beach native, producer and rapper Pharrell Williams.

University president Javaune Adams-Gaston presented an honorary doctorate degree to Williams after he delivered the commencement speech during the university’s fall ceremony.

“I present to you for the first time, Dr. Pharrell Williams,” Adams-Gaston said in the Joseph G. Echols Memorial Hall Arena.

She also named Williams an honorary member of the Spartan Legion Band, bringing the musician to tears.

Moments before the presentation, Williams reminisced about hearing the university’s marching band as a child.

“Man, to hear the marching band of Norfolk State,” he said to cheers from the audience.

He noticed the Booker T. Washington High School band played with the same “cadence” as NSU. He recalled wondering why his band at Princess Anne High couldn’t play like that.

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SOURCE: The Virginia-Pilot, Saleen Martin