The University of Florida approved a motion to give Tom Petty an honorary doctorate in music, noting his significant influence in his hometown.
While he never attended the institute in Gainesville, he was once employed as a groundskeeper there before finding global success with the Heartbreakers, formed as Mudcrutch in the area in the early ‘70s.
“Tom Petty is widely considered among the most distinctive and influential musicians over the past 50 years,” university provost Joseph Glover said (via TampaBay.com) as he read the motion to president Kent Fuchs and the board of trustees on Friday (Dec. 3). “His presence remains significant as seen by abundant radio airplay and the popularity of events such as the Tom Petty birthday bash held in Gainesville. On the U.F. campus, Petty’s famous ‘I Won’t Back Down’ has become a mantra at athletic events – and I personally have heard President Fuchs sing it.”
The tradition of singing “I Won’t Back Down” at Florida Gators college football games began days after Petty’s death in 2017 and has become a regular fixture of Sunday proceedings.
He recorded a track about his early life, titled “Gainesville,” in 1998. In 2005, when Gainesville Magazine asked him if he’d been back recently, he replied: “No, but I sure would love to. There’s really not too many days go by that I don’t think about it. I think about it quite a bit. One of my dreams is to really go back there, spend a little time and just go around and get nostalgic, you know? I loved it there.” He said he’d often thought of buying a home there, but that it would probably never happen. “It was just so great,” he reflected of his childhood.
Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Gainesville’
Tom Petty Albums Ranked
He’s a rock ‘n’ roll rarity: an artist who was consistent until the very end.