During MCA's 2009 commencement ceremony, Wharton, MCA trustee Ellen Cooper Klyce and former Commercial Appeal arts writer Fredric Koeppel, were all given honorary doctorates of fine arts.
Wharton, also the commencement speaker, said the students would step out into the world not as a new generation but as the re-generation, a reference from Thomas Friedman's book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.
"What if the world was without color and only shades of gray, black, and white?" Wharton asked. "What you have to offer is bigger than your canvas and field of study."