Merle Haggard and Buck Ownes to Be Honored by CSU Bakersfield

California State University at Bakersfield will honor two country singers who defined the sound of their city.

Merle Haggard will receive the university's first ever honorary Doctor and Fine Arts and only the tenth honorary doctorate in the school's history. The late Buck Owens will be honored with the President's Medal. Both will be awarded at the school's spring 2013 commencement ceremony on June 14 with Alvis "Buddy" Owens accepting on his father's behalf.

CSUB president Horace Mitchell said "We consider these honors as equivalent, although what will be bestowed is slightly different. Merle will receive an honorary doctorate. Buck would have received an honorary doctorate as well, except that the CSU system does not award the degree posthumously. Instead, Buck will be awarded the President’s Medal, which is an honor of the highest magnitude an individual CSU campus can bestow."

The awards are timed to coincide with the Country Music Hall of Fame's 21-month major exhibit of the history of the Bakersfield sound. 2013 is also the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath with Haggerd dedicating his annual Fox Theater concert to the university's year long celebration of the book.

Mitchell went on to say "Recognition of Mr. Haggard’s intellectual and humane values is especially appropriate for the CSU system in light of his championing working-class virtues and the dignity of the common man through extreme adversity. It is especially fitting that Mr. Haggard receive this award from CSU Bakersfield."

On Owens, "Buck’s power of self-determination to overcome adverse circumstances to reach personal achievement is identical to what is required to reach similar academic success for our students. Self-efficacy, as Buck demonstrated throughout his life, is a value and a skill that we strive to develop in our students, many of whom face similar social and economic challenges."

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