New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Eastern Illinois University at commencement exercises on Saturday in recognition of his generosity and service to society.
Payton, who received his bachelor’s degree in communications from EIU in 1987, made a lasting impression both on and off the field during his four years in Charleston and has continued his support of his alma mater throughout his coaching career.
The Eastern Illinois University Athletics Hall of Fame inductee (September 2000) played quarterback for the Panthers from 1983-86. He was an honorable mention All-American in 1986, leading EIU to the NCAA FCS quarterfinals. To this day, he holds four single-season records, four career records and three individual game records at EIU.
In 2010, the university retired his No. 18 jersey, and Payton was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the EIU Alumni Association. He was honored by the NCAA in 2012 as a recipient of the Silver Anniversary Award, which annually recognizes a handful of distinguished individuals for career achievement on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletic careers. Payton has returned to campus numerous times to support his alma mater, spending time with students, faculty, staff and Panther fans whenever opportunity allows.