Filmmaker John Waters was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of Baltimore for his support of artistic freedom and his ongoing contributions to the city of Baltimore. While it's not the first honorary degree he's ever received, it is his first from a school that he actually attended. Waters, who attended the university in 1965, expressed his gratitude, saying, "This is the only school after grade school I ever went to that actually claims me, and I am proud of that."
Waters also acknowledged the crucial role the university played in his early career. As a student, he got his first writing published, and the university later served as the stage for the world premieres of three of his "most notorious trash epics," including Pink Flamingos.
"In 1965, when I went to the University of Baltimore, almost 50 years ago, it was a very different place than it is today," he said. "They'd take anybody, and I'm living proof."
Waters said his high school, Calvert Hall College High School, wouldn't let him graduate "because I had long hair and truancy," but he went to summer school at Boys Latin School of Maryland and passed. He said he enrolled at the University of Baltimore that fall "with a big chip on my shoulder," but one teacher changed that.
The teacher was "a woman named Miss Norris, who helped start a literary magazine here that year, called Welter," he said. "She encouraged me to write something for it and I did — an inside job about my grandfather and how he was waiting for death. It got published, my first anywhere. And while my parents were horrified about the subject matter, they were proud I was in print. And here I am 58 years later — 8 books, 17 movies!"
Receiving the degree onstage, Waters quipped, "Remember when the scarecrow gets the brain in Wizard of Oz?"