An honorary degree, or a degree honoris causa, is the University’s highest honor, recognizing a distinguished person’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general. Commencement speakers are distinguished individuals selected to deliver an inspirational address to graduates. On occasion, the commencement speaker may receive an honorary degree from the University and must meet the criteria for an honorary doctorate.
Honorary degrees are awarded at University commencement ceremonies, however, under special circumstances, they can be awarded outside commencement ceremonies.
The Honorary Degree and Commencement Speaker Committee is an advisory group charged by the President to review and identify the nominations for honorary degrees and commencement speakers and to ensure the nominees reflect the mission and values of St. John’s University. The committee is advisory to the President who submits final recommendations to the Board of Trustees for consideration and approval.
All nominees must reflect the mission and values of St. John’s University and must meet one or more of the following criteria:
In selecting honorary degree recipients, the University seeks individuals whose achievements reflect the values and mission of St. John’s and must possess a distinguished record of service to society.
Commencement speakers will also be chosen based on the outlined criteria. Given that the ceremony is a celebration of the accomplishments of the graduating class, commencement speaker nominees should also have the ability to give a positive, meaningful, and inspirational address to the graduating class and their families and should also be engaging and charismatic.
The committee will review all nominees. Nominees deemed worthy of further consideration will be forwarded to the President.
Current faculty, students, staff, and administrators of the University are not eligible to receive an Honorary Degree. Candidates actively running for political office or sitting elected officials are not eligible to be selected as a Commencement Speaker or to receive an Honorary Degree from the University.
Honorary Degree Categories
Customarily, the following Honorary Degrees may be granted by the University:
The President and the Board of Trustees invite nominations for honorary degrees and commencement speakers from the University community. All nominations should include basic biographical information and clear rationale for recognition. The Committee may also bring forth nominations. Self-nominations will not be considered. Individuals who wish to nominate a candidate should complete the nomination form.
The Committee will consider approved nominees for these honors for two years from the date of nomination. If an approved nominee is not selected within the two-year period, they will be removed from the list of approved candidates.
Please contact Nunzia Manuli, Vice President and Chief of Staff, at [email protected], for questions regarding the nomination process.
The nomination period for Honorary Degrees and Speakers for May 2023 Commencement ceremonies closes on November 1, 2022. The nomination period for Honorary Degrees presented at events other than Commencement are due nine months prior to the event date.
Nominees should not be made aware of the nomination and letters of support should not be solicited to support the nomination. Unfortunately, not all extraordinary nominees can be honored and a failed nomination can be embarrassing and hurtful if not handled appropriately.