2024 Honorary Degree Recipients

Claudius “C.B.” Claiborne B.S.E.’69, Doctor of Humane Letters

Duke University’s first Black student-athlete used the challenges he faced on the basketball court and in the classroom to inform his work as a distinguished scholar and teacher of teamwork and leadership.

The Danville, Va., native arrived at Duke on a presidential scholarship in 1965, just two years after the first Black undergraduate students enrolled. After a year on the freshman basketball team, he played the following three seasons on the men’s varsity team. Claiborne also joined the Black Student Alliance and took part in the pivotal 1969 Allen Building sit-in.

Claiborne graduated from Duke in 1969 with a BSE degree in engineering and later earned advanced degrees from Dartmouth College, Washington University and Virginia Polytechnic University. He is currently Professor of Business and Marketing in the Jesse H. Jones School of Business at Texas Southern University, has published widely and has received numerous awards for his research and teaching on leadership, including the Apple Distinguished Educator, Fulbright Scholarship and Coors Eminent Scholar.

Since graduating from Duke, Claiborne has returned several times to discuss issues of race, athletics and campus culture, taking part in a panel sponsored by the faculty-led initiative, “Black in Blue: The Duke Sports & Race Project.” Students in a Bass Connections project are currently making a documentary exploring the history of race and sports at Duke through the lens of Claiborne’s story.

Watch: Duke basketball pays tribute to C.B. Claiborne

Read: Claiborne’s Journey Helped Transform Duke Basketball (GoDuke)

Rhiannon Giddens, Doctor of Arts

Every song by Rhiannon Giddens gives voice to a powerful musical history and culture that is now bursting into greater public consciousness. The Greensboro native, MacArthur Fellow and winner of two Grammy Awards can currently be heard playing the banjo on Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em,” which made history as the first song by a Black woman to top Billboard’s Country Music Song chart. The song and its critical acclaim are shining a new light on a longtime priority for Giddens – lifting up a more accurate understanding of the origins of American music.

Giddens first came to campus in 2007 with the Carolina Chocolate Drops for a Duke Performances concert. She has returned several times, most recently last year for a conversation with music professor Anthony Kelley about her music and her career.

Watch: Rhiannon Giddens: NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Rose Marcario, Doctor of Humane Letters

As CEO and Board Member of Patagonia,Inc., Rose Marcario showed that profits can be congruent with strong environmental practices and activism and was an example of how business leaders can take effective stands on social issues.

Her concern with supply chain issues was more than a financial issue; in a public interview at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 2016, Marcario said her efforts were part of an intentional effort to strengthen the company by addressing climate change through developing sustainable business practices.

“We’re not living in a world anymore where you can just keep making new stuff and using it up,” she said. “I think the companies that can get ahead of that and start creating those (sustainable) supply chains and creating that infrastructure will be ahead of the curve.”

Marcario is also a supporter of workplace child care. Under her leadership, 100 percent of working mothers returned to work at Patagonia after giving birth, allowing many to rise in company leadership.  She is also the founder of Time to Vote, an initiative to allow employees time off to vote. She stepped down from the company in 2020.

Watch: Rose Marcario addresses business activism addressing climate change at the 2018 Expo West.

Desmond Meade, Doctor of Laws

In October 2020, at age 53, Desmond Meade cast his first-ever ballot in a presidential election. That vote came after a remarkable victory not just for him but for tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated people in Florida whose past felony convictions had barred them from voting under state law.

A MacArthur Fellow, a Ford Global Fellow, and recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Meade has become a powerful advocate for civic participation: “I believe that everybody deserves a second chance at redemption, and democracy is stronger when it fully represents everyone,” Meade said. This is why under his leadership, Desmond’s organization, FRRC, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2023

At Duke’s commencement in 2021, speaker John Legend told Meade’s story. Legend received an honorary degree from Duke that day. Three years later, it will be Meade’s turn to be honored. 

Watch: Desmond Meade discusses his activism in a video for the MacArthur Fellowship

For more information on this year’s honorary degree recipients, read the announcement on Duke Today.