I Witnessed The College Dropout’s Graduation


Kanye West Graduation
Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

It’s graduation day. Finally his big day is here. I’ve seen him work his ass off for over a decade and today everything that he is done is being recognized by way of a doctoral degree. Years ago, he promised his mother (an educator who earned her doctorate decades ago) that he was going back to school. While she left this world far too soon, she is certainly looking down to watch her son, a college dropout, finally receive his degree. To be there in person and to share such a special moment was an honor. I could not be any more proud.

Now you would probably assume I know this college dropout personally. Instead the college dropout I am talking about isn’t just any college dropout, he is “THE College Dropout,” Mr. Kanye West. It was a weird feeling. In many ways I felt a sense of pride for Kanye. I felt like I was at a graduation for a family member. While I do not know Kanye personally, it seems like I have been with him since the moment he dropped out of college until today, when he received his honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Music will do that to you, as long as you love it that much. People will spend every ounce of energy they have to defend an artist’s every questionable move. Fans will put up their last penny to get tickets for an artist’s summer tour. When your favorite singer wins their first Grammy, you feel like you won your first Grammy. Music turns a relationship you have with someone you have never met into a close personal relationship.

Luckily pride is not exclusive to personal relationships. Given the amount of detail that Kanye West has shared with his fans throughout his career, from the death of his mother to his darkest moments and heartbreaks, a Kanye fan can easily imagine what Kanye was feeling today. His graduation day was a day removed from Mother’s Day, Kanye West would not only receive a great honor for his contributions to the arts (whether it be music or fashion) but he would also share a degree with his mother, the late Dr. Donda West, which she earned over three decades ago. As expected from a college professor, Dr. West originally disapproved of Kanye’s dropout from college, believing that a college education was the only ticket to your goals. While she eventually came to accept and understand Kanye’s decision (and later managed Kanye’s career), you can only imagine how proud she would be to see her son on his graduation day.

This is why I had to find a way into the graduation ceremony to watch Kanye receive his honorary degree. Personally I have been a big Kanye fan since his 2004 debut with The College Dropout, so to witness a big moment of his career in person was my only option. While at times I contemplated finding and buying a ticket from a SAIC graduation student, The Early Registration was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the ceremony to see Kanye receive his honorary doctorate in person. Before I knew it, it was just seconds before The College Dropout’s Graduation.

“I guess this is my dissertation. Homie, this shit is basic. Welcome to Graduation.” – Kanye West (‘Good Morning’)

For today’s dissertation, Kanye opened by labeling himself as a pop artist. “I’m a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion, and the world is my canvas. ‘I’m sorry’ is something you can use a lot, it gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it, and give your opinion again,” said Kanye. While Kanye can come off as cocky and arrogant to many, Kanye humbled himself by admitting that today made him feel nerves that he isn’t used to feeling. Receiving over 20 Grammys, having your albums given perfect scores by the most respected publications, having your shoes sell out in seconds and then resold for thousands on eBay, it is hard to imagine that anything could make Kanye West nervous. But today did.

This achievement isn’t an end of a chapter for Kanye West, it is still just the beginning. Like his fellow graduates, who received their degrees in a more conventional way, today marks a moment where everything can become easier. Now the College Dropout is rebranded as Dr. West. Now his art has yet another huge co-sign. Now he can tell his late mother that he did finally get that college degree. Like Kanye told the SAIC crowd today, things will be easier now that he can say he has a degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. And I was more than glad I could be there to witness it all in person.


Check out our photos from the ceremony here and watch Kanye’s speech below.

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