Clay Aiken Picks up His College Degree

12/22/2003 at 01:00 PM EST

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken

America's favorite stringbean has his sheepskin.

Clay Aiken, the past season's "American Idol" runner-up, graduated Saturday from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, receiving his bachelor of arts degree in special education from UNCC's College of Education, reports the Associated Press.

The awarding of his degree took place during an afternoon ceremony at the school's Halton Arena, and AP notes that the recording star, 25, was just another face in a sea of black-robed graduates -- though he could be spotted thanks to his height and the spiked hair that stuck out from beneath his mortarboard.

Aiken's name was not called out during the ceremony until he walked across the stage, the very last of the 593 degree recipients. The commencement program listed him on page 31, as "Clayton Aiken ... Raleigh," according to AP.

As Aiken approached the stage, flashbulbs went off in the arena and there was applause mixed with some boos from hecklers. (Aiken's appearance at the commencement exercises had forced the school to impose an unpopular limitation on tickets available to all grads.)

Saying, "One among you has received a bit more attention, and he would like to speak to his class," chancellor James Woodward then summoned Aiken to the stage.

"This has been an amazing year for me," Clay said hurriedly at the mic. "This is more special to me than a lot of the things that have happened to me this year, because what happens here today says something to people. This is a day that makes for all of us a statement ... how important it is to persevere and continue to work and strive to succeed.

"Thank you for letting me be a part of this day. Congratulations and God bless. Thank you so much," Aiken concluded to a round of something to which he's grown highly accustomed -- rousing applause.

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