We don’t know if this is a first; world famous institutions Harvard, Yale, and the University of Munich have all awarded honorary degrees to someone that never graduated high school.
Orville Wright, during his junior year of high school, decided that his advanced college preparatory courses would not qualify for his high school degree at the end of his senior year. He chose not to attend school his senior year, and never graduated. But that didn’t stop Harvard, Yale, Munich, and eight other universities from conferring eleven honorary degrees upon the world-famous inventor during his lifetime.
Eleven honorary degrees awarded to Orville Wright.
Since Orville left high school and started the printing business at age 15 he probably never expected to receive a college degree, not to mention a whole stack of them. The first school to come forward was the University of Munich in Germany, awarding both of the Wright brothers Honorary Doctor of Engineering degrees on March 5, 1909. Orville was also awarded honorary degrees in Science (Baccalaureate from Earlham College) and Law (PhD from Oberlin College). Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio awarded Orville his final honorary degree (Doctor of Science) on June 9, 1947.
All told, 15 honorary degrees from 13 different colleges were awarded to one or both brothers. It’s an impressive testimonial to their accomplishments that so many colleges chose to confer honorary degrees on the Wright brothers. And, it’s a reminder of the unanticipated rewards beckoning those who choose to be first!