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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

Preparing Nominations

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:

Required Documentation

Each nominating packet should include:  

  1. 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.
  2. A three- to five-page justification memorandum, addressed to the University-wide Honorary Degree Committee, from the nominator. The memo explains, in specific detail:
    1. 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;
    2. why the particular type of degree is being recommended; and
    3. how the nominee’s achievements are relevant to SUNY.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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:  

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: 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: 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.

I.  Publicity    

Publicity of honorary degree recipients is prohibited until final approval has been granted.