Local News

Friday, Jun 14 2013 11:52 AM

CSUB awards Haggard, Owens top honors

  1. 1 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Country music legend Merle Haggard received an honorary doctorate at the 2013 Arts and Humanities commencement ceremonies at Cal State Bakersfield Friday.

    click to expand click to collapse
  2. 2 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Dr. Merle Haggard makes a brief statement after receiving an honorary doctorate at the 2013 Cal State Bakersfield Arts and Humanities commencement ceremonies.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Country music legend Merle Haggard, third from left, was presented with an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Cal State Bakersfield at the 2013 Arts and Humanities Commencement ceremonies. At right is Buddy Owens, who accepted the President's Medal on behalf of his father, the late Buck Owens. CSUB President Horace Mitchell is at left and California State University Trustee Dr. Douglas Faigin is second from left.

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Richard Collins, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Cal State Bakersfield, presents Merle Haggard with his doctorate of fine arts. CSUB President Horace Mitchell stands next to Haggard.

    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Country music legend Merle Haggard receives an honorary doctorate from Cal State Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell at the 2013 Arts and Humanities Commencement ceremonies.

    click to expand click to collapse
  6. 6 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Dr. Merle Haggard, right, shares a laugh with fellow doctor, and California State University trustee, Douglas Faigin.

    click to expand click to collapse
  7. 7 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Buddy Owens accepted the CSUB President's Medal on behalf of his father, the late Buck Owens.

    click to expand click to collapse
  8. 8 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    The morning sun beats down on Santiago Valdivia while his fellow CSUB graduates shield themselves with programs.

    click to expand click to collapse
  9. 9 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Art major June Jeffries, one of the 2,118 students graduating in three separate commencement ceremonies at CSUB.

    click to expand click to collapse
  10. 10 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Nursing major Victoria Rivera lets out a cheer as the 2103 CSUB commencement ceremonies begin.

    click to expand click to collapse
  11. 11 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Breanna Norwood takes a quick snapshot of the line of CSUB graduates before they all march into the CSUB Amphitheatre.

    click to expand click to collapse
  12. 12 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Bakersfield country legend Red Simpson gets a police escort from Lt. Kenny Williams as he leaves the CSUB Amphitheatre after seeing his friend Merle Haggard receive an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art.

    click to expand click to collapse
  13. 13 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Jared Schweitzer, left and Bill Peloquin said they were the first two graduates of CSUB's new agribusiness school.

    click to expand click to collapse
  14. 14 of 14

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Some graduates are already thinking head, to post ceremony celebrations!

    click to expand click to collapse
By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

He’s Dr. Merle Haggard now.

The bad-boy hero of the rebel strain of music that put Bakersfield on America’s cultural map half a century ago did something Friday he hadn’t done since he was 9: He sat still in school.

Cal State Bakersfield presented the Oildale-bred singer-songwriter with the university’s highest honor Friday at commencement ceremonies for the School of Arts and Humanities. Joining him posthumously was his equally famous contemporary, Buck Owens, who was represented by his eldest son.

Haggard received the 10th honorary doctorate and the first doctor of fine arts in history awarded by CSUB.

Owens received the President’s Medal, the first to be awarded posthumously. “Buddy” Alan Owens accepted the medal from CSUB President Horace Mitchell on his father’s behalf.

Owens thanked the audience with a few words for the graduates.

“If he were here, he’d say something along the lines of, ‘Work hard, show up on time, and never assume anything,’” he said of Buck, who died in 2006.

Owens’ medal is the highest posthumous award that the CSU system can give.

Mitchell then introduced Haggard, who had been sitting patiently through all the welcomes and introductory comments by students and administrators.

Standing near the podium dressed in doctoral cap and gown, Mitchell shared key points and accomplishments in the star’s life to an attentive, early-morning crowd that extended across the lawn of the CSUB Amphitheatre.

“Merle Haggard is an American icon and living legend,” said Mitchell, who praised Haggard’s contributions to the arts and acknowledged his new standing as “professor of the common man.”

Haggard joined an auspicious list of musical celebrities who have been honored with honorary doctorates from the CSU system, among them jazz great Herbie Hancock Herbie Hancock  (Fresno State), rock legend Neil Young Neil Young  (San Francisco State), opera tenor Placido Domingo Placido Domingo  and Broadway star Carol Channing Carol Channin   (Cal State Stanislaus), and sitar player Ravi Shankar Ravi Shankar  (Cal State San Marcos).

Haggard is the first country music star to receive the award, and the 10th overall recipient from CSUB.

With his sister Lillian watching — as the Bakersfield High School registrar, she once turned him in to the school’s truancy officer in a vain attempt to get him on track — Haggard stepped to the podium.

“On behalf of those with the Bakersfield Sound, we appreciate this,” said Haggard. “Thank you. It’s nice to be noticed.”

Then, while the audience was distracted  by the imminent recitation of the graduates’ names, Haggard slipped out the back, just as he had done so many times before, so many years ago.

Editorial Page Editor Robert Price, a Bakersfield Sound expert, contributed to this story.

Have something to share? Comment on this story

Bakersfield.com Daily Deal!

Rep Your Max Fitness

Daily Deal

One Month of Physical Training for $40

Value
$80
% Off
50%
You Save
$40
0 Bought
Buy Now! See more deals