There’s more than one way to win a doctorate if you can manage to be as talented, multi-faceted, intelligent and business-savvy as Tracee Ellis Ross, who was recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the illustrious Spelman College.
The actress, comedian and businesswoman attended the HBCU’s 136th Commencement ceremony Sunday where journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, delivered the annual commencement address to celebrate the occasion.
“I came to Spelman for the first time and there is a particular kind of quickening that happens in my heart when I’m in a sea of blackness, but when I get to swim in the particularly special current of Black sisterhood my heart rate settles, my shoulders drop, and I am reminded of my worthiness because I see yours,” Ross said during a speech while accepted her degree.
The 50-year-old Los Angeles native was awarded the degree for her contributions in Hollywood as a Black woman.
Ross, the daughter of musical legend Diana Ross, is best known for her roles as Joan on the hit series Girlfriends and Rainbow in Black-ish. She would later turn into a CEO after launching her successful haircare company Pattern. In a video she shared on social media, the Spelmanite wrote, “I became a Spelmanite today and it was awesome. Thank you @spelman_college and #drhelengayle for bestowing me with such an honor. Congratulations to the Class of 2023! It was really special to be robed with you. And thank you @nikolehannahjones [for] your powerful words.”
Ross now joins the ranks of Marian Wright Edelman, Latanya Richardson Jackson, Angela Davis, Bernice King, Debbie Allen and the late Maya Angelou, who have all been awarded honorary degrees from the prestigious 142-year-old institution.
Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman became a College in 1924 and has since been recognized as one of the world’s leading collegiate institutions for women of color. On its website, it boasts “more than 2,100 students from 43 states and 10 foreign countries. Spelman empowers women to engage the many cultures of the world and inspires a commitment to positive social change through service. We are dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and the intellectual, creative, ethical and leadership development of our students.”