SUNY Honorary Degree Procedures
For Non-Campus Nominating Entities: SUNY Board of Trustees, Individual Trustees, Chancellor, University Faculty Senate and Faculty Council of Community Colleges
As the honorary degree is the highest honor bestowed by the SUNY Trustees to persons of exceptional distinction, the process is intentionally rigorous. The procedures below are informed by the Guidelines for the Awarding of Honorary Degrees, last revised August 2018.
A. Abbreviated Summary of the Honorary Degree Process
The nominating entity identifies candidates whose outstanding achievements are consistent with the program’s purposes and guidelines via a confidential process.
The nominating entity prepares a nomination packet for each candidate.
Each packet must include appropriate supporting documentation (see section B. below) which indicates that the candidate’s professional achievements are recognized at a state, national and/or international level. Each nomination packet is to be emailed to the System Provost at: firstname.lastname@example.org, who accepts them on behalf of the Chancellor.
The System Provost convenes a fall meeting of the University-Wide Honorary Degree Committee—composed of distinguished faculty, SUNY Trustees, and System administrators—to review all nominations, make suggestions on appropriateness of degrees, request further information as needed and identify those to move forward and those which cannot be approved.
The System Provost conveys the outcome of the Committee's deliberations to the Chancellor, who reviews and forwards recommended candidates to the SUNY Trustees for consideration.
The SUNY Trustees consider recommended candidates, identifying those which earn initial approval via vote by resolution at a SUNY Trustees’ meeting.
On behalf of the Board and Chancellor, the System Provost notifies the nominating entity of the initial approval, which provides that entity with the authority to send letters of invitation to approved nominees. Copies of the letters of invitation are to be sent to the System Provost’s office via e-mail to: email@example.com
Accepted invitations, which should be made by the candidate in writing (e-mail is allowable), should include confirmation of availability to come to the award location on a date certain. Copies of accepted invitations are to be sent to the System Provost’s office via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org so that the second, final review can commence.
Nominees who accept invitations undergo a final review by the Chancellor, under delegated authority by the Board as described in the Guidelines, last amended in August 2018.
The Provost will convey final approval to the nominating entity on behalf of the Chancellor. If for any reason the candidate is not qualified to receive the award, the Chancellor will review with the SUNY Trustees and the nominating entity will be notified. All will discuss next steps.
Public announcements/publicity are prohibited until final approval has been granted.
The nomination process should be kept strictly confidential. Nominees should not be contacted or alerted in any way that they are being considered for an honorary degree. The nominating entity must conduct a rigorous review of the qualifications of the candidate(s), including confidential consultation with appropriate faculty able to evaluate the accomplishments of the nominee(s).
Reminder, the following individuals are not eligible for a SUNY Honorary Degree:
Employees of SUNY or members of the teaching or administrative staff on its campuses;
Individuals whose conferral could create a conflict of interest (i.e., members of the SUNY Board of Trustees or of the Boards and Councils of SUNY’s campuses);
Individuals who have already received a SUNY honorary degree; and
Current holders of New York elected office or candidates for elected public office.
Each nominating packet should include:
A completed Nomination Form, sent with the annual call for nominations from the System Provost.
Note: You may request, via the nomination form, a three-year award window for your nominee, i.e., providing additional time to align the nominees’ calendar with the award ceremony.
A three- to five-page justification memorandum, addressed to the University-wide Honorary Degree Committee, from the nominator. The memo explains, in specific detail:
Why the nominee’s achievements justify the awarding of an honorary degree and details the specific accomplishments (contributions, discoveries, advances, publications, awards, etc.) achieved that have earned state, national or international recognition;
why the particular type of degree is being recommended; and
how the nominee’s achievements are relevant to SUNY.
A three- to four- paragraph executive summary (maximum) of the justification memo, highlighting the most significant accomplishments of the honoree (relative to the honorary degree program). This summary should be submitted in Microsoft Word. Opening sentences should include: nominee name, title, present position and/or profession; whether or not they are a SUNY alum and if so, from what campus, year of award and degree type. The remainder of the text should briefly summarize the nominee’s most significant achievements relative the purposes of the honorary degree program.
Additional supporting documentation is next and may include a resume or vitae, evidence of the candidates major publications, discoveries, contributions, major awards received, etc. Additional documentation should be kept to a maximum of 5 pages (not including vitaes).
B. University-Wide Honorary Degree Committee
The University-Wide Honorary Degree Committee, chaired by the Provost, will review nominees to ensure that they meet the qualifications established by the SUNY Trustees. The Committee consists of fifteen members: ten Distinguished Faculty, two senior System administrators, and two members of the Board of Trustees.
C. Initial Authorization to Invite
The System Provost will convey the outcome of the initial review to the nominator.
Initial approval grants the nominating entity the authority to extend an invitation to the candidate, on behalf of the Chancellor, the Board of Trustees, and themselves. Invitations should explain the two-part nature of the process and that final approval is pending. Copies of invitations must e-mailed to the System Provost’s Office at: email@example.com.
Accepted invitations, which should be made by the candidate in writing (e-mail is allowable), should include confirmation of availability to come to the award location on a date certain. Copies of accepted invitations are to also be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org so that the second, final review can commence.
D. Final Approval
Nominees who accept invitations undergo a final review by the Chancellor, under delegated authority by the SUNY Trustees. The Chancellor/designee and the campus will work collaboratively to review any new publicly available information about the candidate to ensure that they continue to meet the high standards of the program.
The Provost will convey final approval to the nominating entity on behalf of the Chancellor. If for any reason the candidate is deemed to be not qualified to receive the award at this stage, the Chancellor will review with the SUNY Trustees and notify the nominator. All will discuss next steps.
E. Limitation on Number of Degrees SUNY-wide and by Campus
In any given year, the maximum number of honorary degrees which may be awarded System-wide is 75. Each nominating entity may submit up to (5) five nominations but award no more than (4) four in any given year. The System Provost will ensure that the maximum number is not exceeded.
F. Previous Degree Recipients
No one already holding a SUNY honorary degree may receive another. A master listing of honorary degree awards is provided to all campuses and nominating entities for their information.
G. Site of Conferral of Degree
Honorary degrees may be conferred during the commencement exercises of a campus or, after approval, at other appropriate ceremonies.
H. Arrangements for Recipients
Diploma cases and citations in the standard format will be furnished by the Office of the Provost. Once the nominator has received notification of final approval, they will be asked draft a citation and forward it to Provost’s Office via e-mail to: email@example.com. The office will work with the nominator to arrive at the final text of the citation and will then provide the diploma and citation. Arrangements for regalia and travel are to be discussed with the System Provost’s office.
Publicity of honorary degree recipients is prohibited until final approval has been granted.