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UF awards Gainesville music legend Tom Petty a posthumous doctorate in music

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, in San Diego in September 2017. Nearly two decades after earning a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more than four years after his death, Petty has been awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Florida, the school’s board of trustees announced Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
Amy Harris via AP
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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, in San Diego in September 2017. Nearly two decades after earning a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more than four years after his death, Petty has been awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Florida, the school’s board of trustees announced Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Nearly two decades after earning a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more than four years after his death, rock icon Tom Petty has been awarded a honorary Ph.D. from the University of Florida.

The school’s board of trustees unanimously voted to award Thomas Earl Petty a posthumous doctoral degree in music during a Friday meeting.

A nomination form submitted to the trustees said that Petty’s “presence remains significant” after his death in 2017. “On the UF campus, Petty’s famed ‘I Won’t Back Down’ has become a mantra at athletic events,” the document said.

Born and raised in Gainesville, Petty once worked as a groundskeeper at UF as he tried to make it in the music industry, but he was never enrolled.

His "I Won't Back Down" is a signature rallying point at UF athletic events.

Petty passed away from an accidental drug overdose in October 2017.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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