The honorary doctorate degree is the highest form of recognition offered by the State University to persons of exceptional distinction.

The Purposes of Honorary Degrees Awarded by the State University of New York is:

  • To recognize excellence in the fields of public affairs, the sciences, humanities and the arts, scholarship and education, business and philanthropy, and social services which exemplify the mission and purposes of the State University of New York;
  • To honor meritorious and outstanding service to the University, the State of New York, the United States, or to humanity at large;
  • To recognize persons whose lives serve as examples of the University’s aspirations for its students.

The Board of Trustees shall award all honorary degrees in the name of the State University of New York.  As authorized by Education Law 355(2) (f) [Laws of 1979, Chapter 213] and in accordance with the Rules of the Board of Regents, the State University Board of Trustees has selected to offer the following registered honorary degrees:

  • Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
  • Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D)
  • Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
  • Doctor of Letters (Litt.D)
  • Doctor of Music (Mus.D.)
  • Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

The specific honorary degree awarded shall be appropriate to the nature of the attainment which is being recognized.

Criteria for Selection of Degree Recipients

The basis for the selection of a degree recipient shall be consistent with the Purposes of Honorary Degrees stated above.

The nominee must be distinguished, and the person’s achievements must be both relevant and appropriate to the nominating campus.  Eligibility for nomination is restricted to persons of state, national, or international stature.  Nominees who have made extraordinary contributions to the nominating campus can also be considered, but must have made significant contributions beyond that single institution and their local region.  Service to the University is not sufficient justification for an honorary degree,

  • Honorary degrees shall be conferred at University ceremonies authorized by the Board of Trustees, including commencement exercises.  The presentation of honorary degrees may also be permitted outside the normal procedures in unusual circumstances, such as to recognize visiting dignitaries and, in other special cases, as recommended to the Board by the Chancellor.
  • Honorary degrees may be awarded in absentia, but only upon recommendation to the Board by the Chancellor in the case of extraordinary and compelling circumstances.  In the event of unexpected inability to appear at the scheduled time, the conferral may be postponed to the next appropriate ceremony, provided that the degree is conferred within one year after being authorized.  A degree may be awarded posthumously if a recipient dies after notification of selection but before the ceremony.
  • Honorary degrees shall be bestowed by the Chancellor, by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, or by a Trustee designated by the Chairman or, in their absence, on behalf of the Board of Trustees by the President if the ceremony is conducted on a campus.  If no Trustee is available, and the campus President desires a SUNY Central Administration representative, the President should contact the Chancellor.
  • Campuses may choose to use the existing University-wide format or select a campus-designed format for the honorary degree diploma.  If a campus design is used, it must include the signatures of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor (top line) and the SUNY seal, whether or not the campus seal is also used.  The campus-designed diploma must clearly state that it is a SUNY degree.

The Board of Trustees shall determine the number of honorary degrees to be awarded in any academic year, with a maximum of 75.  Subject to this authority, the Chancellor may issue additional guidelines on numbers of degrees to be awarded.

Because the proliferation of honorary degrees may tend to diminish the prestige the University attaches to these awards, campuses should limit the number of nominations to as few as possible.  In no case shall a campus submit more than five nominations.  It should be remembered that the total number of honorary degrees to be awarded Statewide is limited to 75.

Limitations on Eligibility

Except under unique and unusual circumstances, honorary degrees shall not be awarded to:

  • Members of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York, the Councils at the State-operated campuses, the Board of Trustees of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the Board of Trustees of the Community Colleges during their terms of service to the University.
  • Members of the teaching or administrative staff, or any other employee in the University system while employed by the University.
  • Current holders of New York elective public office or active candidates for elective public office.
  • Since honorary degrees are conferred by the Board of Trustees for the State University and not individual campuses, no one already holding an honorary degree from the State University shall be eligible to receive a second honorary degree.

Procedures for Selection of Degree Recipients

Coordination of the selection and nomination process for honorary degree recipients is the responsibility of the campus President who shall empanel an advisory committee and review thoroughly that committee’s recommendations.  Throughout the procedure, the utmost care should be taken to ensure confidentiality.  To verify the qualifications of nominees, campus nominating committees should consult confidentially with appropriate academic departments for review of proposed candidates.

  • Nominations for degree recipients shall be encouraged from any member of the University community, including students, faculty, administrative staff, alumni and alumnae, members of Councils, Trustees, and friends of the University.
  • Nominations originating on a campus should be submitted to the President of the institution with a detailed curriculum vitae, Who’s Who entries, reviews or articles about the nominee’s work, list of major awards.  The nomination submission must also include a clear and convincing statement regarding the relevance and/or appropriateness of the nominee to the nominating campus.
  • Nominations from other sources within the University community should be made directly to the Chancellor with the same documentation as above.
  • Campus Presidents shall empanel an advisory committee which includes representatives from faculty and staff, and which may also include representatives from other constituencies such as College Councils and the community.  Small enough to ensure confidentiality, the committee shall gather the materials to support the nominations.  This committee shall conduct a rigorous review of the qualifications of the nominee(s), consulting as necessary with appropriate academic departments.  The President shall review the campus committee’s recommendations and have the responsibility of recommending nominees to the Chancellor.  The President shall make the final selection and forward the name(s) to the Chancellor for consideration.
  • The Chancellor shall submit al nominations to the University-wide Committee on Honorary Degrees at a time determined by the Chancellor.
  • The Committee on Honorary Degrees, chaired by the Provost, will review the nominees to ensure that they meet the qualifications established by the Board of Trustees.  The Provost will forward a list to the Chancellor and the Board for final selection.  The Committee shall consist of 15 persons: 10 eminent faculty members in the University appointed by the Chancellor for three-year staggered terms, two senior administrators, two members of the Board of Trustees and the Provost.  The Committee shall follow these Guidelines in its deliberations, and shall submit the list of qualified nominees to the Chancellor.  In those rare cases where the request to award the degree is submitted outside the established timetable for such submissions, the Honorary Degree Committee Chair will not reconvene the University-wide Committee for review, but will, instead, discuss the nomination with three or four Committee members and then inform the entire Committee of the recommendation.
  • The Chancellor shall submit the list of qualified nominees, with appropriate recommendations, to the Board of Trustees which shall make the final selection of degree recipients.
  • The Chancellor shall notify campus Presidents regarding the Board’s selection of degree recipients.  Upon receipt of the Board’s approval to proceed, Presidents shall issue invitations to nominees directly, on behalf of the Chancellor, the Board of trustees, and themselves.  Copies of these invitations must be provided to the Chancellor and the Provost.
  • Nominees’ responses to campus Presidents must then be forwarded to the Chancellor and the Provost in a timely manner, so that Board resolutions can be prepared for those who accept the University’s invitation.
  • The Board wishes to re-emphasize that confidentiality must be maintained throughout the procedure to avoid potential embarrassment to all concerned.