Lee Elder honored by the Masters and Augusta’s Paine College

Lee Elder was awarded an honorary doctorate degree for lifetime achievement from Paine College on Tuesday. Elder, the first Black player to compete in the Masters, was honored with a reception. The degree, in recognition of his “extraordinary contributions to humanity,” was conferred in December with a virtual commencement convocation because of the coronavirus pandemic. The college re-enacted the occasion with a hooding ceremony.

The ceremony included DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, along with Paine College president Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones.

“At the heart of this gathering is the goal of recognizing a true American hero who defied the odds of poverty, lack of access, and extreme hostile racial barriers, one who emerged as a role model for millions of young people throughout the world,” said Thurmond, chairman of the Paine College board of trustees, in a statement. “Lee Elder demonstrated how the power of faith, hard work, raw determination, and staying the course can impact one’s life. Now more than ever, our communities need role models such as Lee Elder.”

At last year’s Masters, in November, Augusta National Golf Club invited Elder to serve as an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters. He joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to officially open the tournament Thursday. Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley also announced the establishment of endowed scholarships in honor of Elder and underwrite 100% of a new women’s golf program at Paine College.

Thurmond, who also was a student at Paine College, was student body president in 1975. Paine College served as a host for Elder and his family during the tournament that year, according to masters.com.