What do a Nobel Prize winning physicist, a long-time American diplomat,
an accomplished jazz pianist, and Dick Vitale have in common? They are
all scheduled to receive honorary degrees from Duke University at this
year's commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 15, according to
University Provost Peter Lange. Chilean President Ricardo Lagos (Duke
Ph.D. '66) was previously announced as the commencement speaker.
Vitale, who has often been criticized for lauding Duke on ESPN, is said
to be "speechless," if you can imagine that.
Quoting Lange from the news release: "Dick Vitale is many things, but
most of all, he's a humanitarian. His work with charities and education
is legendary. Moreover, Dick has done as much as anyone to promote
Duke's reputation as a school that gets it right: combining top flight
academics with top notch athletics while adhering to the highest ethical
Not everyone is thrilled.
"It's a terrible idea," says Vitale's ESPN colleague Jay Bilas. "It's
just going to further the stereotype of Duke's preferential treatment."
Bilas went on to say that while he likes Vitale personally, he doesn't
always appreciate his broadcast excesses.
"Dick's a great guy," said Bilas. "He's immensely charming and totally
real. He'd give you the shirt off his back in a heartbeat, something we
try to keep him from doing, because it scares animals and small
children. I love the guy. But Duke isn't the only good program out
there. UNC is solid, Kentucky does things the right way under Tubby
Smith, Bruce Weber is a straight arrow. I say let's praise who deserves
it and not just focus on one or two particular schools."
Vitale, who irritated Duke fans a decade ago with incessant references
to "Michelangelo," when referring to Dean Smith, and "The General,"
referring to Indiana's Bob Knight, has been widely criticized for
appearing to be overtly in favor of Duke. He maintains that praising
someone for doing things the right way is appropriate, and that Duke is