University of Minnesota awards Prince with honorary degree

One of Minnesota's most iconic musicians is finally getting a degree. 

Two years after his death, the University of Minnesota presented Prince the school’s highest honor: an honorary doctorate of humane letters. In front of a packed house Wednesday night, university officials celebrated the Purple One with a night of music.

“I want to be a part of it,” said Theresa Fischer, Prince fan. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an honor bestowed on Prince.”

For Prince fans, it’s the day they've been waiting for - a chance to prove a Minnesota musical icon made the grade.

“It’s long overdue as a lifelong Minnesotan, lifelong Prince fan - I want to be here to see it,” said Fischer.

University officials say the posthumous degree is a way to thank the Minneapolis native for his contributions to the music business, his philanthropy in the Twin Cities and for his sense of social justice.

“When I came into the directorship role here three years ago, they'd been talking to Prince about the honorary doctorate to which he replied with one word, ‘Cool,’” said Michael Kim, the director of the School of Music. “So clearly, he liked the idea. It was my dream to meet him, but he passed away. But it only seemed right after he passed away.”

Former collaborators St. Paul Peterson, Jellybean Johnson and Kirk Johnson performed many of Prince's hits along with students from the university's school of music.

His sister Tyka Nelson who accepted the degree on her brother's behalf says even though he didn't go to college, he already had a PhD in talent and musical knowledge.

"That's what he was about: education,” said Nelson. “So the university to give it to him, to show the world you can do this too. Be your own self."

In the end, his sister says the superstar may be gone for good, but Dr. Prince Rogers Nelson's musical legacy will live on.

“You put on a Prince record, you are still Prince,” said Nelson. “He's going to live with us forever.”