16-3 Honorary Degrees

1.0 Purpose and Overview

1.1   The purpose of this policy is to outline the criteria, nomination and selection process for individuals selected for recognition through conferral of an honorary degree by Wayne State University.

1.2   The honorary doctorate is the highest academic recognition the university can confer.  Wayne State University typically awards an honorary degree in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments.  Such accomplishments may be to the academy, in science, industry, artistry or the humanities, or through proven leadership and/or contributions to society.

1.3   In some cases there will be a single achievement for which a candidate is best known.  An honorary degree is not given to celebrate meeting of minimal standards, but rather the breadth of contributions that allow this individual to stand above others.

2.0    Eligibility

2.1   Qualified candidates are considered regardless of race, sex, creed or national origin.

2.2   Candidates for honorary degrees should have demonstrated high standards of excellence as evidenced by scholarship or creative activity; by professional development and achievement; by distinguished public service internationally, nationally, or at the state or local level; commitment or dedication to the University, or demonstrated excellence in other ways that mirror the intent of this criteria or the mission and vision of the University.

2.3   In general, honorary degrees are not awarded to candidates for political office or to elected officials currently in office, with the following exceptions:

  • President of the United States
  • Vice President of the United States
  • Governor of Michigan

Also not eligible to receive an honorary degree are faculty, staff or administrators of the University who are currently in service, members of the University’s Board of Governors, or members of the Boards of Visitors of the University’s Schools and Colleges.

Exceptions to these policies can be made only by the president, with the advice of the chair of the Honorary Degree Committee.

2.4   The honorary degree may not be awarded in absentia.  Should an approved nominee be unable to attend the commencement ceremony for which the degree was offered, the individual’s candidacy may be considered for conferral in a future year.

3.0 Nominations

3.1   Nominations for honorary degrees will be reviewed by an Honorary Degree Committee, whose membership is comprised of individuals from a cross-section of the University, and will include a representative of the Division of Development and Alumni Affairs, the Vice President and Secretary to the Board of Governors, who serves as the President’s designee, faculty and deans.  Members are appointed by the President.

3.2   The Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for academic Personnel shall serve as chair of the committee.

3.3   Nomination materials need not be extensive but should document the extraordinary nature of the candidate’s contributions, and should include:

  • A letter of nomination
  • A short narrative explaining why the candidate is worthy of consideration
  • A curriculum vitae (if relevant) or other biographical information

3.4   Self-nominations will not be accepted for consideration

3.5   Nominations and accompanying background materials should be submitted no later than October 15 each year, to:

Honorary Degree Committee    
C/O Associate Provost for Academic Personnel
Office of the Provost
4228 Faculty/Administration Building
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI   48202

3.6   Preliminary consideration of candidates for honorary degrees is conducted with a high degree of confidentiality.  The nominee should not be informed that his or her name has been submitted for consideration.  Nominators should not solicit letters of support on behalf of the nominee for the same reason.  Not all candidates can be recognized, and the review process should be seen as a positive opportunity to recognize excellence and commitment.

4.0 Process and Recommendations

4.1   Honorary degrees will be conferred at the May General Commencement ceremonies, and may also be conferred at the Law School and School of Medicine’s separate spring commencement programs, should appropriate candidates be identified.

4.2   The Honorary Degree Committee will meet in the Fall to review the nominations and materials received.  The Committee will prepare its recommendations, rank the order of the nominations and identify the Commencement program where the conferral will take place for each of the individuals recommended for consideration.  The Committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Provost of the University for review.

4.3   The Provost will review the Committee’s recommendations and forward, under his/her signature, recommendations on behalf of the University to the President.

4.4   The President will review the committee’s report and develop a final slate of candidates for the Board for presentation at the December Board meeting.  The President may add additional individuals for consideration, or may narrow the Committee’s list prior to submission to the Board.

4.5   The President will discuss his/her recommendations with the Board and request approval.  

4.6   Upon receipt of the Board’s approval of the nominees, the President will notify the recipients of the University’s interest in conferring an honorary degree, and extend an invitation to them to attend the commencement ceremony identified.  Logistical arrangements for candidates participating in Commencement will be handled by the Office of the President.

4.7   All communications related to the conferral of honorary degrees will be through the Office of the President and the University’s Office of Communications and Marketing.

5.0 Duration and Effective Date

5.1   This University Policy is revocable at any time at the discretion of the President and without notice.

5.2   This University Policy is effective immediately.

Signed by President M. Roy Wilson  December 21, 2016