Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees are typically awarded at Commencement to persons whose contributions are outstanding in specific fields such as The Arts, Public Life and Government, The Humanities and Social Sciences, and The Natural and Applied Sciences.

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Guidelines and procedures


  1. Suggestions and nominations for honorary degrees shall be made in writing, using the appropriate form whenever possible. These nominees may also be considered as potential Commencement speakers. The form, guidelines, and procedures are available from the Provost’s Office. The nominator should be clearly identified by signature and address. Suggestions and nominations should be addressed to the Provost of the College, Gettysburg College. All nominations will be acknowledged in writing by the Provost’s Office. All nominations remain confidential and should not be discussed with the nominee.
  2. The Provost of the College will send a request for nominations each fall with a deadline of November 1 to the members of the Board of Trustees, the Faculty, members of the College Relations staff, representative student leadership bodies, the Alumni Association, and other interested constituencies of the College.
  3. All nominations received are placed in a pool of candidates maintained by the Provost’s Office. If not selected for a degree within three years, the candidate is removed from the pool. The nominator will be notified of the removal and offered the opportunity to re-nominate for a second three-year period.
  4. Honorary degrees are awarded by vote of the Board of Trustees (based on the criteria listed in the “Guidelines”) and may be conferred at any official convocation of the College or at other special events. By convention, the spring commencement speaker is awarded an honorary degree.
  5. Chronology of nomination and deliberation of candidates for honorary degrees.
    1. The Honorary Degree Committee—a sub-committee of the Academic Affairs Committee consisting of three Trustees (usually appointed from the roster of the Academic Affairs Committee), the Provost, a Faculty representative (usually the Faculty representative to Academic Affairs but subject to availability), and a student representative (again usually the student representative but subject to availability)—will review the current pool of nominees, including those newly received, during January and February of the year prior to that in which the honorary degree is bestowed.
    2. No later than the beginning of March, the Honorary Degree Committee will present to the Academic Affairs Committee and to the President a short list of candidates for discussion and prioritization.
    3. During March and April, the list will be vetted by the President’s Council (or other body to be designated by the President).
    4. At the May meeting of the Academic Affairs Committee, the final list will be discussed and approved by the Academic Affairs Committee and brought to the full Board for approval.
  6. If approved by the Board, the list of degree recipients is forwarded to the President, who extends the appropriate invitations for the awards. When offering the degree, the President discusses with the nominee the College’s hopes and expectations for a continuing relationship and the nominee’s availability at the appropriate time.
  7. The President, in consultation with the Provost, will determine the particular honorary degree to be awarded to each candidate from a roster of appropriate degrees.
  8. The Provost will update the Academic Affairs Committee periodically on the status of offers to potential honorary degree recipients


  1. In the awarding of honorary degrees, the Committee should seek out and designate for honorary degrees persons whose documented achievements:
    1. bring honor and distinction to the College and embody Gettysburg College’s mission, which is grounded in the values associated with a liberal arts and sciences education;
    2. demonstrate that s/he values the worth and dignity of all people;
    3. demonstrate the free exchange of ideas which lead to excellence and innovation in an academic discipline, professional and/or creative field, and/or affect positive change in the greater society;
    4. demonstrate a lifelong commitment to service, broadly defined; and
    5. have lasted over time and will have an inspirational impact on others, especially our students.
  2. In selecting honorary degree recipients for specific occasions, the Committee will consider the purpose and theme of the event and the appropriateness of awarding honorary degrees to persons related to the purpose or theme of this occasion. Consideration will be given to awarding all honorary degrees at commencement to persons whose contributions are outstanding.
  3. Normally, no more than eight (8) honorary degrees shall be conferred during any one year, September 1 to August 31. The Board of Trustees may declare an exception.
  4. Gettysburg College does not engage in discrimination in its programs, activities, and policies on account of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or being differently abled. The President’s Council shall make specific efforts to nominate women, persons of color, and persons whose primary language is other than English for honorary degrees.
  5. Voting members of the Board of Trustees and members of the active faculty and administration of the College are ineligible to receive an honorary degree.
  6. Special arrangements:
    1. No charge will be made for the hoods of the honorary degree recipients.
    2. No honorary degree shall be conferred in the absence of the recipient, except for reasons which the Board of Trustees may deem sufficient to excuse the recipient’s absence.
    3. No honorary degree is to be confirmed without the written acceptance of the recipient.
    4. All recipients must wear academic regalia. A brief statement giving the reasons for the degree will be read at the ceremony.
  7. The record of the actions of the Academic Affairs Committee relating to honorary degrees is confidential; information about honorary degrees will be released by the President’s Office.


Jordana Hudson
Executive Assistant
Office of the Provost
Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, PA 17325