George H.W. Bush, Aretha Franklin and six others were honored at Thursday’s commencement.
Harvard President Drew Faust poked fun at the 89-year-old Bush’s Yale University credentials, saying his "cap was blue, his house was white and now his robe is crimson," but added that Bush "piloted our nation though changeful skies."
Bush smiled and gestured to the crowd as he received the doctor of laws degree, but he did not stand.
The 72-year-old Franklin accompanied herself on piano to perform the national anthem. She later received an honorary doctor of arts degree.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also received an honorary degree.
Harvard awarded more than 7,300 degrees and certificates at its 363rd commencement.