The degree was presented to the 69-year-old at the start of the 16th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters tribute.
Lauryn Hill, Dennis Edwards of the Temptations and Chaka Khan were among those who entertained.
Franklin was not scheduled to perform, but toward the end of the three-hour event took a seat at a piano and traded verses with Edwards in a rendition of "A Song for You."
Franklin was the first female Rock Hall inductee. She returned to the concert scene this year after surgery for an undisclosed medical condition.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.