Here's why IBM CEO Ginni Rometty felt she needed an honorary PhD

Ginni Rometty commencementAP/Hans Pennink/Feature Photo Service for IBMIBM CEO Ginni Rometty received an honorary Doctorate of Engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On Friday morning, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty gave the commencement speech at her alma mater, Northwestern University, in 1979.

She holds a bachelor of science degree in computer science and electrical engineering, graduating with high honours.

After graduating, Rometty immediately went into the workforce and is now CEO of one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, and the first woman to lead the venerable old company.

But she never went back for a post grad degree. Instead, the university granted her an honorary PhD and she joked she was grateful to have it because it allowed her to play catch up with her siblings. (Rometty also has an honorary PhD from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)

Rometty is the oldest of four. She often tells the story of how her dad left the family when she was a kid, leaving her mum to figure out how to raise four kids on her own, which she was able to do by going to school to get a nursing degree and working at night.

That appreciation for education was imprinted on the whole Nicosia clan (her maiden name), Rometty said during the speech:

And my brother and two sisters, they share, among themselves, five degrees from Dartmouth, Georgia Tech and Northwestern. And thank goodness for this doctorate, because I was losing that race on number of degrees.

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