Guidelines for Granting Honorary Doctoral Degrees

What is an Honorary Doctorate?

The awarding of an honorary doctoral degree remains a significant and public acknowledgment that brings both prominence to the recipient and distinction to our institution as the conferrer. It continues to represent one of the highest commendations that the University can bestow. Thus, this distinction must be reserved exclusively for individuals of extraordinary achievements, adhering closely to the criteria established by the Board of Regents.

Recipients of honorary doctoral degrees continue to be united by a common factor: their exceptional achievements. Yet, the paths by which they have established such distinction, the disciplines in which they have excelled, and their scale of operations may differ significantly.

It is to be recognized that the potential for controversy surrounding a nominee alone should not be a sufficient cause for denying an honorary degree, provided that the nominee is otherwise deserving. Nonetheless, the University shall avoid awarding an honorary degree  if it may reasonably be expected to cause the institution shame or humiliation.

An honorary degree is an acknowledgment of an individual's success and contributions. Those who are awarded an honorary degree are entitled and encouraged to include these distinctions in their biographies, resumes, and curricula vitae. However, an honorary degree alone does not grant the recipient the right to claim the title of "Dr." 

Eastern Michigan University confers honorary doctorates during the Fall and Winter Commencement ceremonies. 

Eligibility Criteria for Honorary Degrees

  • People who have distinguished themselves in any discipline are eligible.
  • Members of academia, such as professors or administrators, must have significantly outperformed the established benchmarks of their discipline and profession.
  • Alumni are eligible if their contributions have significantly improved social well-being or have profoundly benefited the community, the University, Michigan, or beyond.

Guidelines for Granting Honorary Doctoral Degrees

Just holding a prominent job, such as CEO of a private-sector corporation, is inadequate. People in such positions must have displayed visionary thinking or performed measures that have improved or altered the human situation. Gaining celebrity without making a substantial contribution to society is not an appropriate criteria.

Honorary degrees for philanthropic endeavors may be granted only if they are accompanied by a revolutionary vision that has already or has the potential to transform the University or the specific area that the philanthropy targets. Notably, honorary degrees are not to be bestowed solely for monetary contributions to the University.

  • Current full-time employees of Eastern Michigan University or current members of the Board of Regents are ineligible for honorary degrees.
  • The awarding of an honorary degree to an elected or appointed official does not imply the University's political support.
  • Honorees are not required to hold an academic degree in order to receive an honorary doctorate, however the majority are likely to have at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Mere affiliation with the University or the surrounding community is an insufficient basis for conferring an honorary degree.

Procedures for Nominating and Awarding Honorary Degrees

Nominations for honorary degrees must be submitted in writing and can come from members of the campus or external communities. These submissions should be made to the University's Academic Honors Committee or to the respective Deans of the Colleges. The chosen nominee from the Deans will then be forwarded to the University's Academic Honors Committee.

Nominations must include:

A comprehensive biographical sketch or curriculum vitae, detailing the candidate's academic background, professional training, notable activities, appointments, services, honors, and commendations over the course of their career.  

Analytical and evaluative letters from individuals capable of assessing the candidate's accomplishments. While these letters should be written in non-technical language, they should convey the quality, uniqueness, breadth, and level of achievement of the candidate. For nationally or internationally recognized nominees, news releases or publications about the individual may suffice in lieu of letters.

Additional documents like the candidate's publications or news features about them.

The Honorary Degree Committee

The Honorary Degree Committee will review all proposals for honorary degrees. The committee may supplement their deliberations with additional information about the nominee, considering such information during their discussions. They may also conduct background checks as deemed appropriate. Nominations will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. All discussions within the committee will remain confidential.

Recommendations will be conveyed to the President and Provost while respecting the need for confidentiality whenever possible. The Provost will suggest an appropriate honorary degree for the nominee.

All nominations and honorary degree recommendations will be presented to the Board of Regents, or the designated committee, for approval.

The President or a designated representative will orchestrate the degree conferral. Conferrals will only take place in person during a Commencement or other suitable university-wide occasion.

Types of Honorary Degrees Conferred

  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Doctor of Canon Law
  • Doctor of Civil Law
  • Doctor of Commercial Science
  • Doctor of Divinity
  • Doctor of Education
  • Doctor of Engineering or Eng.D. Doctor of Engineering
  • Doctor of Engineering Science
  • Doctor of Fine Arts
  • Doctor of Humanities 
  • Doctor of Hebrew Literature
  • Doctor of Humane Letters
  • Doctor of Jewish Theology
  • Doctor of Journalism
  • Doctor of Jurisprudence
  • Doctor of Laws
  • Doctor of Letters
  • Doctor of Music or Mus.D. Doctor of Music
  • Doctor of Pedagogy
  • Doctor of Public Administration
  • Doctor of Public Affairs
  • Doctor of Public Service
  • Doctor of Religious Education
  • Doctor of Science 

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