HBCU Gives Dr. Rickey Smiley Honorary Doctorate Following 2023 Commencement Speech

RS Doctorate Miles College

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Congratulations are in order for our very own Rickey Smiley—or, Dr. Rickey Smiley, that is–after a monumental weekend at Miles College. Rickey Smiley earned an honorary doctorate degree and delivered the commencement speech for the school’s Class of 2023 on Friday.

Click below for his full speech:


Rickey spent time at the institution during his college matriculation, before ultimately graduating from Alabama State University. He mentions during his speech that he performed his first-ever comedy show at Miles, and has fond memories of many of its staff members, endearingly sharing that “it would not be a Rickey Smiley, if it was not for Miles College”.

Smiley went from humble beginnings as a Birmingham native, to having a successful comedy career and nationally syndicated radio talk show. After decades of experience in entertainment, philanthropy, and mentorship, there is no doubt that he is well deserving of a doctorate—the most advanced academic honor!

He encouraged the graduates to get out of their comfort zones, dare to be different and remain close to God. 

“Graduation is just the beginning…now we’ve got to get out here and make it happen,” he tells the Class of 2023.

Miles College is a private, liberal arts HBCU in Fairfield, Alabama. Notable Miles College alumni include the honorable Judge U.W. Clemon, Birmingham’s first black mayor Richard Arrington Jr. and now Dr. Rickey Smiley. 

The triumphant moment at Miles was a major high in a year in which the comedian and radio host suffered a serious low when his oldest son, Brandon, died in January.

In his first televised appearance back in March, Rickey told Today Show host Craig Melvin that Brandon struggled with drug addiction for a while. Rickey said both he and Brandon’s mother did their best to get their son the help he needed, especially with both of them being non-drug users and clueless as to why he turned to narcotics in the first place.

“We thought he was getting better,” Rickey explained, further adding, “he had just joined a church, had just been baptized again probably a month before he passed away. He used, and it killed him.” Although the investigation is still open, with a cause of death still up in the air, it’s quite obvious that Rickey knows his child and the struggles that he was going through.

“The God that we serve is just awesome,” Rickey said with all the strength he could muster up without breaking down, continuing with his important message by stating, “He’s given me peace that surpasses all understanding, and if anything makes me cry it’s God’s goodness. To be able to get out of the bed, to be able to do my morning show, to be able to protect the rest of my kids, my grandkids and the rest of my family — I just thank God for His grace and His mercy.”


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HBCU Gives Dr. Rickey Smiley Honorary Doctorate Following 2023 Commencement Speech  was originally published on