Kenny Chesney Honored with a Doctorate from His Alma Mater

Kenny Chesney Honored with a Doctorate from His Alma Mater

This past weekend Kenny Chesney went back to college!

The country superstar returned to East Tennessee State University to honor the man who taught him how to play guitar in college, Dr. Jack Tottle.

Kenny Chesney joins ETSU President Brian Noland (R) to honor Dr. Jack Tottle (L) | Photo Courtesy of ETSU

Dr. Tottle founded the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies Program, which is internationally acclaimed and has graduated GRAMMY, International Bluegrass Music Association, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Awards winners.

Kenny says, “Jack Tottle taught me how to dream, or inspired me to have the ability to dream enough to believe I could do this. He showed me that music could make connections beyond what we see, that it could communicate beyond language or location. He took us – the ETSU Bluegrass Band – to Russia as part of a cultural exchange and made that idea real.”

While Kenny was a surprise guest at the ceremony celebrating the program’s 40th Anniversary as part of the University’s Homecoming Weekend, it turns out there was a surprise in store for Kenny as well.

ETSU President Brian Noland presented Kenny with an honorary doctorate of letters.

Kenny Chesney is presented with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by ETSU Provost Kimberly McCorkle and President Brian Noland | Photo Courtesy of ETSU

After the current ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band performed “Me & You,” President Noland explained to the audience, “He (Kenny) is a paradigm-shifting artist who helped define country music in the 21st Century, selling out stadiums across the world… He is an inspiration, reminding the world — through his art and the example he sets — to live life with joy, humor, passion, and soul. Here at ETSU, we have issued a challenge to our faculty, staff and students to ‘go beyond.’ Mr. Chesney, soon to be Dr. Chesney, you exemplify that ideal. You have gone beyond genres, unifying people through your art and your work. You have gone beyond borders, sharing your amazing talent all over the world. And you have gone beyond yourself, using your voice to uplift others and give back to communities.”

Kenny Chesney speaks during the ETSU 40th Anniversary of Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music Studies | Photo Courtesy of ETSU

Deeply moved by the presentation, Kenny addressed the audience, “To say I wouldn’t dream this is an understatement. I was spending most of my time at Chucky’s Trading Post, the Downhome, Quarterback’s BBQ and in the rooms at the music building, practicing my guitar. All I wanted was to get a song on the radio, write some things I could be proud of and get out on the road and have some fun. My tour manager and a couple of my friends from back here are still out there with me, but I don’t think any of us would’ve seen this coming. But that’s why no matter what you dream, you have to just keep dreaming and believing.”

Kenny later joked that things are going to change on tour next year as his crew will now have to refer to him as “Dr. Chesney.”

While on campus, Kenny also spent some time with the current members of the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band.

Kenny Chesney poses with current members of the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. Photo Courtesy of ETSU

Kenny Chesney’s current single at country radio included his frequent touring buddies, Old Dominion.

Check out the music video for their song “Beer With My Friends” right here…

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

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