Facing the Truthy: Stephen Colbert Burns Up Over College's Commencement Pick

June 13, 2007

If attracting big-name commencement speakers is an achievement, then Knox College, a small, liberal-arts institution in rural Illinois, is on a roll. Two years ago Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, delivered the address. Last year the faux television newsman Stephen Colbert spoke. This year the special guest was none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill.

On getting word of this year’s speaker, Mr. Colbert had threatened to burn his honorary doctoral diploma from Knox — in mock anger at the college’s decision to honor Mr. Clinton. The Galesburg Register-Mail reports that the college’s president, Roger L. Taylor, responded by sending Mr. Colbert a steel diploma, which the comedian tried unsuccessfully to burn Monday night on The Colbert Report.

“You win this round, Knox College,” said Mr. Colbert, adding that “those geniuses at Knox College are pretty smart.”

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Clinton, ever the name-dropper, mentioned the biggest celebrity to receive an honorary degree from Knox: Abraham Lincoln, in 1860. —Don Troop