February 19, 2014
|Left to right: Provost Thompson, Chairman Battista, Roger Waters and President Hodges|
A Doctorate of Humane Letters Honoris Causa Degree was awarded on the 18th of February 2014 to Roger Waters by The American University of Rome. Waters, who was the co-founder, lyricist, and conceptual leader of world famous progressive rock band Pink Floyd, and champion of veteran causes and human rights, was awarded for his contribution to music and for his social activism around the globe.
Accompanied by his wife Laurie Durning and by war veteran and close friend Harry Shindler, Waters was honored his degree before an intimate group of AUR students, veterans, faculty, and staff at the Istituto Italiano Studi Germanici in Rome following attendance of the Anzio commemoration ceremonies for the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings where his father, Eric Fletcher Waters of the 8th Royal Fusiliers, died as he fought to repel a German counter-attack in a battle that changed the course of the Second World War. Mr. Shindler, who also fought in the assault, was key in helping Waters locate the exact spot where his father fell.
|Prof. James Walston, left, with WWII veteran of the battle at Anzio, Harry Shindler.|
After receiving the Honoris Causa Degree, the social activist gave a short and concise talk directed to AUR students in which he recited a critical poem written in 2004 in light of the re-election of former US President George W. Bush. He then encouraged AUR students to “make the world a much better place than it is now” and further highlighted his hopes that the current education system would focus on getting students interested in discovering and delivering the real truth about the issues of the world.
Waters then answered questions from AUR students regarding inspiration for his music, his thoughts on education, and his passion for veteran causes and human rights. Particularly, he shared with the audience that he finds the work he does with veterans to be the most rewarding of all. In a moving moment, he said “countries of the world really need to think more critically about the psychological situations they are putting their children in when they ask them to go to war”. The AUR Veterans Club concluded the ceremony by presenting Roger Waters with a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of his father’s ultimate sacrifice and for Waters’ continued outreach to the veteran community.
Recollections on Roger Waters
"AUR was quite magical on Tuesday night. Awarding Roger Waters an honorary degree was Harry Schindler’s idea, the 93-year veteran of Anzio who had located where Mr. Waters’ father had fallen on 18 February 1944, seventy years before. Modest and quite unlike a rock star vapidly consumed with fame, I had the fortune to hear Roger speak in public and then to quiz him about his life in private. Like his music, there is an epic dimension to his own history.
I remember Pink Floyd from the late ‘sixties and I have a sense of ‘one more brick in the wall’, especially from the Berlin concert in 1990. But in all honesty their music passed me by. Now I rather regret this because Roger is a poet telling the particular stories of his generation.
During the question-and-answer session with the students, Waters spoke about being the son of a primary school teacher. He also revealed that he’d spent five years studying to be an architect. These are minor elements in ‘The Wall’. Perhaps more telling was his longer view of his personal history. His grandfather was a coal miner from the Durham pits who was called up to be a sapper. He died at Arras in the first days of the Somme, leaving a son – Roger’s father, who was aged about three at the time. So the grandfather never knew his son, any more than Roger knew the son, his father. His grandmother went into service and with determination sent her son, Roger’s father, to Durham University where he studied divinity. Eric Fletcher Waters taught at a school in Palestine before the Second World War, and when conscripted, he declared himself to be a pacifist. Driving ambulances in the blitz he met Roger’s mother, already a communist, and with time he decided to enlist. Anzio was the brutal, disorganized end chapter, an Arras in Italy. But of course it wasn’t the end.
The ceremony over, the students became bolder they pushed forward to get his autograph and to photograph him. Their unalloyed joy was quite something to behold! He is quite used to fame, of course, yet you can see that it belongs to a world he left behind long ago. He is focussed instead upon continual reinvention of his musical ideas as opposed to living off the music he made thirty, forty or even nearly fifty years ago. His recent shows have been colossal productions, possibly some of the largest grossing extravaganzas in rock history, and in unlikely places – Argentina and Turkey, for example – as well as in more familiar cities. In this new invention, of course, he remains a discomforting political activist, speaking to old and new audiences alike. The undisguised honesty sustains a personal story that encompasses Arras and Anzio, and, in some way, was shaped by architecture school.
This honorary degree ceremony, like so many before at AUR, shed a spotlight on the importance of education in the world today. It also emphasized unexpectedly the place of history in a portfolio of popular music that will forever be associated with the great social changes of the baby-boomers from the 1960s through to the end of the cold war."