On May 8, 2009, Dolly was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Tennessee in, Knoxville. She received only the second honorary doctorate ever awarded by the school in Humane and Musical letters.
At the graduation ceremony, Dolly performed a version of the school’s unofficial fight song "Rocky Top" and a version of her own song "Try."
University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said,
"Ms. Parton is uniquely distinguished and qualified to receive the highest honor we as a university can offer to a member of the public... Because of her career not just as a musician and entertainer, but for her role as a cultural ambassador, philanthropist and lifelong advocate for education, it is fitting that she be honored with an honorary degree from the flagship educational institution of her home state.”
Dolly was flattered by the award.
“It is an incredible honor for me to receive this degree from a prestigious university like UT. I’ve been a Volunteer all my life and entertained folks around the world with ‘Rocky Top’... Seriously, education and the arts are very important to me, and this degree is something that makes me and would have made my parents very proud.”
Dolly delivered the commencement speech for the 2009 graduating class at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, infusing it with some of her famous humor.
“Now, I usually try not to give advice. Information, yes, advice, no. But, what has worked for me may not work for you. Well, take for instance what has worked for me. Wigs. Tight clothes, push up bras, and high heel shoes.”
As part of the ceremonies, Dolly sang a version of the university’s unofficial fight song "Rocky Top," and a version of her song "Try." Dolly received an honorary doctorate of humane and musical letters, only the second bestowed in the university’s history.