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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was honored by Hofstra University in 1965, less than one year after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and three years before his assassination.

Hofstra University President Clifford Lord and the Board of Trustees invited Dr. King to receive an honorary degree and address the graduating class of 1965. Dr. King's longtime attorney, Harry Wachtel (who subsequently taught political science at Hofstra, 1967-71) was a friend of Hofstra Board of Trustees' member Bernard Fixler. Mr. Fixler and Mr. Wachtel helped to make arrangements for Dr. King’s Commencement appearance. All of the photographs and documents on this Web site are from the Wachtel Collection (which was donated by Mr. Wachtel to the Hofstra University Archives) as well as the Hofstra University Archives Commencement Collection.

A 1957 Gallup Poll found that Dr. King was one of the most admired religious leaders in the world. After naming him its 1963 Man of the Year, Time Magazine stated that he had become, "The unchallenged voice of the Negro people and the disquieting conscience of the white."

Hear Dr. King's Speech

Did you know that Dr. King:

  • Skipped both the 9th and 12th grades and went to college at age 15.
  • Was ordained in 1948 before he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in sociology.
  • Received a second B.A. in theology from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951, and his Ph.D. in Divinity from Boston University in 1955.
  • Was one of the first to ride the bus after the integration in 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Documents Related to Dr. King's Visit

In a letter written on July 2, 1965 to President Lord, Dr. King states that "I can assure you it is a privilege and an honor to be an alumnus of Hofstra."