De Shields, who is a 1970 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, was awarded his doctorate by that institution in a private ceremony in Chancellor John Wiley's office. A small mix of University deans and fellow honorees also took part in the ceremony, which featured the actor singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production of The Full Monty, Andre De Shields re-created his role as Noah "Horse" T. Simmons for the London production. He received another Tony nomination for his performance in Play On! and also starred on Broadway in The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' and Haarlem Nocturne.
De Shields co-starred with Phyllis Frelich, James Naughton and Heather Tom in Mark Medoff's Prymate, which closed May 8 after 23 previews and five regular performances. The controversial production concerned scientists battling over the life of a gorilla, which was played by De Shields.