edited by Maja Trochimczyk

Editor’s Introduction | Report in the L.A. Times | Report in the L.A. Examiner | Reports in the S.C. Trojan

Editor’s Introduction

The list of the many honors bestowed upon Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) by an international array of governments, institutions, and private individuals, includes several honorary doctorates. According to Adam Zamoyski’s biography of the composer (1982) Paderewski received honorary degrees from the following institutions: University of Lwów (based in Austrian Poland, now Ukraine; 1912), Yale University (1917), Jagiellonian University in Kraków (1919), Oxford University (1920), Columbia University (1922), University of Southern California (1923), Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (1924), Glasgow University (1925), Cambridge University (1926), and SUNY, New York (1933).[1] In addition, the composer-statesman was asked to become the Lord Rector of Glasgow University (1934), but declined the offer. In Polish sources the doctorate received from the University of Southern California has been listed as awarded by the University of California in Los Angeles (or “Los Angeles, Uniwersytet Kalifornijski”), for instance by Małgorzata Perkowska in her Diariusz Koncertowy Paderewskiego of 1990.[2] While the correct information about this degree has been published in some English-language biographies of Paderewski as well as the recent entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,[3] similar errors, confusing the private University of Southern California with the state-wide, public University of California system and its Los Angeles division (Irvine, Riverside, San Diego are other locations of the University of California branches), have been common in Poland.

Paderewski receives honorary doctorate from USC, 1923

In order to clarify these errors, we present the following selection of documentary material from the archives of the University of Southern California (provided by Claude Zachary, the University Archivist). The documents describe in detail the honorary-doctorate ceremony and includes extensive quotations from Paderewski’s speech given on this occasion.[4] Although renowned as a musician and composer, Paderewski did not receive the degree from the School of Music. Instead he was granted the honor of the Doctor of Law from USC President, Dr. Rufus von KleinSmid,[5] who thus recognized Paderewski’s civic service as a statesman (due, to a great extent, to Paderewski’s efforts Poland regained independence after over 120 years of being divided between Russia, Prussia, and Austria). The recognition also honored him as a humanitarian, dedicated to charitable efforts on behalf of war victims, and all the needy persons that requested his assistance. Paderewski was granted this degree on the occasion of USC Commencement ceremonies held in June 1922; however the degree was conferred on him after a delay, i. e. on 22 February 1923, during a special event also commemorating President Washington’s birthday.[6] Since Paderewski’s international fame stemmed from his career as a performing musician and composer, this aspect of his life was mentioned in the honorary doctorate description; the degree was bestowed upon him “in recognition of high attainment in musical art, and distinguished service in statesmanship.”

The USC documents, here published for the first time, include photos from the USC Yearbook of 1923 and press clippings from several newspapers from the Los Angeles area. Three press reports are reproduced below: from the Los Angeles Times (at present the most serious and respected newspaper in Southern California, founded in 1881), the Los Angeles Examiner, and the USC student paper, issued daily during the academic year on USC campus, The Southern California Trojan (today the Daily Trojan). The name of the latter publication refers to USC mascot, “Tommy Trojan” whose sculpture adorns the main square on campus; USC athletic groups bear the name of “Trojans” and the whole USC community is often referred to as “The Trojan Family.”[7] This naming reflects the significance of ancient Greek culture and its various aspects taken to a symbolic level in the early years of American academic life. A preoccupation with all things “Greek” is noticeable, for instance, in the writings of Dr. John H. Finley, a scholar, poet, and editor of the New York Times (see “Paderewski in Poetry” and Part II of “Paderewski and the Tenth Anniversary of Poland’s Independence” in the current issue of the Journal). The reports include endnotes added by the editors; the originals – published in daily papers – did not bear such annotations and their authors did not provide detailed explanations about the identity of persons or institutions mentioned, for instance about the singers or the members of the Native Sons of the Golden West.[9] The patriotic character of this “international” event was underscored by the gift of American and Californian flags from the Native Sons, and by the closing of the ceremonies with singing America, the Beautiful. The song with text by poet Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) and melody borrowed from a pre-existing song, Materna, by Samuel Ward (1847-1903), was the most serious competitor of the Star Spangled Banner for the honor of American national anthem.[10] The Congress solved the issue only in 1931 selecting the latter. However, the context of the song’s presentation in 1923 at USC suggests that it still fulfilled the function of the national anthem. America, the Beautiful was probably sung by Alice Gentle, one of the two singers presented at the ceremony. The international character of the honorary doctorate proceedings was underscored by the participation of a Japanese soprano, Tamakia Miura, who sang a selection of English and Japanese arias and songs.[11]

Report in the Los Angeles Times (23 February 1923)

Paderewski Given Degree
Doctor of Laws Conferred Upon Renowned Musician

by Dr. Von KleinSmid Before Students

Ignace Jan Paderewski, Polish patriot and statesman and world famous pianist, was awarded the degree Doctor of Laws yesterday morning by Dr. Rufus B. von KleinSmid, president of the University of Southern California, in the presence of a large assemblage of students and faculty members gathered in Bovard Auditorium. This signal honor was conferred upon Paderewski by the University in recognition of his immortal art as a composer and musician and as a statesman who piloted his native country through the most perilous period in its existence.

The huge auditorium was filled to capacity and many lined the walls in their attempt to get a glimpse of the famous musician. Faculty members clad in robes assembled at the Old College Building on the campus and headed by the university band, fifteen members clad in white flannels and sweaters, Dr. von KleinSmid and Mr. Paderewski, marched to the Bovard Auditorium where ceremonies were held. An elaborate musical program preceded the conferring of the degree.

Tribute to Pianist

In honoring Mr. Paderewski, Dr. von KleinSmid said that the Polish statesman’s devotion to his art in all its manifestations and his unselfish and tireless allegiance to his country coincident with its birth as a nation, entitled him to the degree.

“I am overwhelmed by the solemnity of this ceremony, by its beauty and its import in conferring upon me the highest honor that is possible for you to confer,” Paderewski said in accepting the scarf, emblematic of the degree Doctor of Laws. “I am not a university man, for privileges and enjoyments of a college education were denied me when young. The foundation for all that I now Know outside of music has been established through persistent efforts by private lessons in the early part of my life. Even then I had to teach in the daytime in order to be taught at night. For many years I was forced to teach from nine to eleven hours of music, so the little knowledge that I possess has been obtained at a high cost.

“There is something in these precious papers that remind me of the time I received my first and second papers in California. There is something in this honor that expresses your extreme esteem and good will, an eloquent expression of your appreciation of my efforts to serve my country and humanity. These are the sort of ties which bind me to this country and California.”

John Sobieski, a countryman of Paderewski who came to this country sixty-eight years ago yesterday and who now lives in Los Angeles, also was presented on the program. Madame Tamakia Miura, Japanese prima donna with the San Carlos Opera Company, and Miss Alice Gentle furnished music for the program. Madame Miura’s selections included Chanson des Cigales, Karuka Kurukato (Expecting Sweetheart) Samurai and Dille tu Rosa, two Japanese selections dedicated to Madame Miura.

Two flags, one of the State and one of the country, were presented to the University by Charles L. McEnerney, grand director of the Native Sons of the Golden West, and were accepted on behalf of the institution by Dr. von KleinSmid.

Among the trustees of the University who were present were President Emeritus George Finley Bovard, George I. Cochran, Arthur Chapman, Judge William M. Bowen, Dr. W.W. Beckett, J. B. Green, R. E. Gronmiller, and A. M. Chaffee.

Report in the Los Angeles Examiner (23 February 1923)

Paderewski Receives Doctor of Laws Degree

Jan Ignace Paderewski [sic], famous Polish statesman and musician, was honored by the University of Southern California yesterday morning when he received the degree of doctor of law. The degree was conferred in recognition of distinguished services rendered by the musician to his native country and in recognition of his achievements in the world of music.
Although the degree was awarded last June, the conferring was delayed until yesterday since this is the first visit of the famous musician to Los Angeles since that time. Dr. R. B. von KleinSmid, president of the University, presided and conferred the degree.

The exercises, which included the observance of Washington’s Birthday, opened with a procession in which the faculty, graduate students and seniors took part. The assemblage sang Alma Mater and Dr. R. D. Hunt, dean of the graduate school, introduced Hilliard E. Welch of Lodi, grand trustee of the Native Sons of the Golden West, who presented the University with processional flags in behalf of the order. In addition to the Stars and Stripes, a California State flag was presented.

Dr. von KleinSmid accepted the flags in behalf of the University. An elaborate musical program was given, including solos by Alice Gentle and Tamakai Miura, grand opera stars. The ceremony closed with the singing of “America.”

Report in the Southern California Trojan (22 February, 1923).

Paderewski is Genius of a Different Type

by Douglas W. Meservey

Ignace Jan Paderewski, upon whom the University of Southern California is to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws this morning is an exception to the general belief that a genius might be a genius in only one endeavor. Although Paderewski directs his art and the ability at only one thing at a time, he accomplishes successfully everything he undertakes. His carrier as a pianist and composer is known to every man, woman, and child the length and breath of civilized world. Not since Paganini has there stood forth among the virtuosi, such an individuality as Paderewski. And the West is indeed delighted to hear his personal manager, Mr. Fitzgerald, says that the pianist’s long respite from public appearances has put a new fervor into his playing and interpretations.

In a New Role

During the war, however, a new Paderewski was discovered and placed in a new role—that of Poland’s able pilot of her Ship of State. As first premier of the little republic and around the council tables at Versailles, he fought his country’s battles and brought her through the war with a new-born hope for her progress.

Conversing or merely watching Paderewski, one remembers, too, that a genius may yet have a personality, may yet be a man. The pianist-statesman talks quietly, but with decision, and in a musical, natural tone of voice. His eyes are alive and bright, indicating mental keenness, his hair is slightly gray, and his face is little drawn from his experiences the last few years. His step is light and quick.

Attends Movies

When visiting Paso Robles and his two almond ranches near there he often attends the movies and displays exceeding interest in them—laughing with the children and applauding with the adults.

Naturally, Paderewski values and cares for, to a great extent, his marvelous fingers. It is even said that, in tramping over the hills around Paso Robles with Mme. Paderewski, the artist is forced to allow the manager of his ranch to help his wife over the rough places for fear of injuring or straining those fingers.

Paderewski’s name, by the way, is not pronounced as if it were spelled “Paderooski,” but rather as though it were “Paderefski.” Many are ignorant of this fact, however.

Paderewski is now in his sixty-third years and upon his tenth tour of the United States, his initial bow to an American Audience being made in 1891 at the age of thirty-one. Since that, nine tours have been made; none since 1913, because of the war. This tour has been a strenuous one, and consequently his manager has denied all interviews in the interest of his health, thus preventing his saying a few words to the students of U.S.C.through the medium of the “Trojan.”

The exercises this morning will be opened by an academic procession, led by the S.C. Band, marching from the old college to the administration building.

Dr R. D. Hunt will introduce Hillard Welch, Grand trustee of the Native Sons of the Golden West, who will present the flags of the United States and the State of California to the University.

President von Klein Smid will then present the degree to Paderewski in behalf of the University.

An elaborate musical program has also been arranged and will be featured by solos from members of the San Carlo Grand Opera Company. Selections will be sung by Alice Gentle, famed to Los Angeles music-lovers for her characterization of “Carmen,” and the Japanese song-bird, Tamakia Miura, of “Madame Butterfly.”

Figure 2: Press Report from The Southern California Trojan.
Courtesy of USC University Archives, Los Angeles.

Report in The Southern California Trojan (23 February, 1923).

Doctor of Laws Degree Conferred on Paderewski

by Willie Live

Surging through the doors, occupying every available seat, and even overflowing into the corridors, throngs crowded Bovard auditorium yesterday morning to witness the conferring of the honorary degree of Doctor of Law upon Ignace Jan Pederewski.

For the second time in its history the University of Southern California was host to an artist of world wide repute.

Although the occasion was in the nature of Washington’s birthday celebration, the affair took on an international note in view of the great maestro’s service as ex-premier and president of the Polish republic. Other guests of the day were John Sobiesco, son of the last king of Poland, Madame Tamakai Miura, Japanese prima donna of “Madame Butterfly”; Miss Alice Gentle, L. E. Behymer, impresario, and Charles MacEnerey, Grand Trustee of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

The degree of Doctor of Laws was bestowed upon Paderewski by the University in recognition of his great service as statesman and musician. It was awarded him last June by the trustees and president of the University, but was not conferred upon him in person because of his inability to be in Los Angeles at that time.

“Through all the years of your complete dedication to things that are high and true and noble,” said president von KleinSmid as he placed the hood around the great statesman’s neck,”you have set before us a shining example. Your ministrations of service to the peoples of Europe, America and all other nations have established the mission of art in its relationship to the rest of the world. This honorary degree is given as an expression of our appreciation and admiration of your great accomplishments. You have awakened an interest in our hearts in the struggle of a people striving for freedom.”

Speech of Acceptance

In his speech of acceptance Dr. Paderewski told of his own struggle for education. “My only foundation of education outside of music has been acquired through private lessons,”said he, “and at a time when I had to earn the money with which to pay for them. I had to teach during the day in order to be taught at night. For many years I had to teach from nine to eleven hours each day. So I know the value of education and how to appreciate the honors I receive at the hands of great educators. To me this degree means very much. It is not merely a crowning reward of success and achievement. It is a symbol of appreciation of my efforts to serve my country to the best of my ability and by so doing to serve humanity to a certain degree. Never before when receiving an honorary degree have I had the honor of being asked to speak,”continued the great Paderewski. “Heretofore the degrees have been bestowed in my absence or I have merely nodded my acceptance. But this occasion is one of the most felicitous and memorable events of my life. I am overwhelmed be its solemnity and its beauty. Though a Pole by birth, race, conviction, and sentiment,” declared the maestro, “I believe firmly in the lofty ideals that America holds, and although my allegiance is to my mother country, I love America, too. This honor will be a new, strong tie binding me to this beautiful and generous country to which I have already been adopted. I not only express my thanks to the president and trustees of this institution, but to all those who have honored me by witnessing this ceremony, the memory of which I shall never cease to cherish.”

Three Minute Applause

Following the bestowal of the degree, there was a thunder of applause lasting fully three minutes. At one time during his speech, Paderewski provoked laughter by expressing the hope that the audience could understand him better than he could himself.

Earlier in the program, Charles MacEnerney, of San Francisko [sic!], Grand Trustee of the Native Sons of the Golden West, made formal presentation of the flags of the United States and the state of California to the University.


[1]. Adam Zamoyski, Paderewski: A Biography of the Great Polish Pianist and Statesman (New York: Atheneum, 1982).[Back]

[2]. Małgorzata Perkowska, Diariusz Koncertowy Paderewskiego [Paderewski’s Concert Diary], (Kraków: PWM, 1990).[Back]

[3]. Charles Phillips, Paderewski: The Story of a Modern Immortal (New York: Da Capo, 1978; originally published in 1933); Zamoyski, op. cit.; entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians II Online by Jim Samson. [Back]

[4]. The University Archives include material documenting the history and growth of the USC. Books (including faculty publications), manuscripts, USC periodicals and newspapers, photographic images, disc and tape recordings and other archival items are available for research under supervised conditions. The Archives are located in the East Library Building near USC main campus. [Back]

[5]. Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid became USC’s fifth president in 1921. During his presidency that lasted until 1946, USC attained full national accreditation, established a graduate school, and had become a large non-denominational institution. According to the history of USC School of International Relations, “In 1922, von KleinSmid hosted the Pan-American Conference on Education that brought together chancellors and university presidents from 22 countries to discuss the importance of education and to foster international cooperation. An offshoot of these meetings was the founding of the Los Angeles University of International Relations, later to be renamed the USC School of International Relations (SIR) and incorporated into USC. [Back]

[6]. Until 1971, both February 12 and February 22 were observed as federal public holidays to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George washington, respectively. In 1971 President Richard Nixon proclaimed one single holiday, the President’s Day, to be observed on the Third Monday of February, honoring all past presidents of The United States of America. [Back]

[7]. USC’s name “Trojans”originated in 1912. Up to that time, teams from USC were called the Methodists or Wesleyans. The new nickname was created by LA Times sports editor Owen Bird prior to a football showdown between USC and Stanford. The name is now extended to all the people associated with USC, including families of its faculty, students, and alumni, who form the “Trojan Family.” [Back]

[8]. John Huston Finley (1863-1940) was an educator, editor, and author. He taught at Princeton University before accepting the presidency of the City College of New York; after 10 years at this post he became the Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, and in 1921 associate editor of the New York Times (he rose to the position of its editor-in-chief in 1937). Finley loved classics and advocated the study of Greek and Latin as the foundation for education and personal development. He contributed to the reconstruction of the Parthenon in Athens and later was involved in charitable work on behalf of the victims of epidemic and war. See Dictionary of American Biography, Supplements 1-2: To 1940 (American Council of Learned Societies, 1944-1958). [Back]

[9]. The Native Sons of the Golden West is a charitable organizations founded in 1850s by Albert Mayer Winn in San Francisco, with the goal of immortalizing the gold rush of 1849. Its subsequent, new objectives include preserving historical monuments in California and conducting other charitable activities. The organization is divided into local “Parlors” and supports a charitable foundation which collects funds for medical expenses of children. The motto of the Native Sons of the Golden West is “Friendship, Loyalty, Charity.” The Native Sons have a mission of preservation of historical sites, landmarks and civic buildings throughout the state of California. They attempt to reestablish a state holiday in California. Details about its 1920s membership are not publicly available; for more information visit http://www.nsgw.org/history.html. [Back]

[10]. Bates wrote the original version in 1893, revised it in 1904 and completed the text in 1913. The first two strophes:

O beautiful for spacious skies, / For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain!
America! America! / God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet / Whose stem impassioned – stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat / Across the wilderness!
America! America! / God mend shine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, / Thy liberty in law! [Back]

[11]. Tamakia Miura (b Tokyo, 22 Feb 1884; d Tokyo, 26 May 1946) was a Japanese soprano. She made her debut in 1914 singing Santuzza in Cavaliera rusticana in Tokyo, Japan. Miura toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States. Alice Gentle, an American soprano, selected a career in film and appeared in Flying Down to Rio (1933) directed by Thornton Freeland, and on Alice Gentle in ‘Carmen’, a color Vitaphone short #3336. For these films the sound-track was recorded on a shellac disc. See Vitaphone home page, http://www.geocities.com/~ppicking/vitaphone21.html. [Back]