Honorary Degree Policy

Policy number03-09
Responsible officeProvost and Academic Affairs
Enforcement officialProvost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
ClassificationBoard of Trustees Policy
Category03. Academic Affairs

Statement of policy

The University requires nominees for receiving honorary degrees to meet specific qualifications and their candidacy will be vetted by the honorary degree committee.

Summary of contents/major changes

This policy pertains to the qualifications one must meet to be selected as a nominee for receiving an honorary degree, per the discretion of the honorary degree committee.

Contributions of a potential candidate are evaluated by the honorary degree committee, not in terms of the person's financial, prestigious, or celebrity success, but in terms of impact in furthering the aspirations of the culture. In short, a person is not awarded a degree on an evaluation of self-serving success, but on an evaluation of contributions to the improvements of the human condition or upon an evaluation of a unique capacity to reach admirable attainments under adverse conditions. The hope of the educational system is that those who are the best educated may help the social order achieve an increasingly more enlightened way to live. Thus an educational institution honors those who have achieved patterns of behavior that demonstrate the plausibility of our aspiration to discover our humanity.

  • Candidates in some way associated with Western Michigan University receive special consideration since the university must keep in sharp focus its capacity to educate or to influence those who achieve the ultimate goals of education.
  • Candidates from the State of Michigan receive special consideration since the state, as represented by its educational institutions, must demonstrate its awareness of the need for social aspiration.
  • Candidates are chosen with special consideration for the principles of affirmative action.Candidates are chosen with special consideration for the broad spectrum of the fields of human endeavor—the arts and the sciences from the abstract to the applied.

The ultimate test of the value of conferring an honorary degree upon a person is what it says about the aspirations of Western Michigan University to those who observe the act.


Effective date of current versionMay 16, 1976
Date first adoptedMay 16, 1975
Revision history
Friday, May 16, 1975 - 17:59 Approved by Board of Trustees.
Proposed date of next reviewFebruary 1, 2020