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SUNY Campus Honorary Degree Procedures

    Table of Contents

Updated August 2018


SUNY Campus Honorary Degree Processes and Procedures

Honorary degree nominees undergo multiple levels of review at the campus and System level. 

Abbreviated Summary of the Honorary Degree Process

Preparing Campus Nominations

Campus presidents should solicit suggested nominations from as wide a group as possible.  The nomination process, however, should be kept strictly confidential.  All those who participate in making and reviewing nominations must understand that they are not to contact the nominees or in any way communicate to them that they are being considered for an honorary degree. 

The campus committee charged with preparing nomination submissions 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). 

When the committee has completed its nomination process, the President makes a further review and submits supporting materials to the Office of the Provost for each nominee recommended.

Reminder, the following individuals are not eligible for a SUNY Honorary Degree:

Required Documentation

The nomination packet for each candidate must include the documentation outlined below and be sent electronically to the System Provost’s office at:  Omission of any part of the nomination materials could result in the nominee’s rejection by the Committee.  Please submit the materials in the order listed (1-4).

  1. The nomination form included with the annual call for nominations from the System Provost should be completed and attached as the top sheet of each nominee’s supporting materials.

    Note: You may opt to have the Committee consider a three-year award window for your nominee, i.e., giving you additional time to align the nominees’ calendar with commencement or other approved event schedules. This is now marked as an option for you to select on the nomination form. Note that the maximum number of honorary degrees that can be awarded by a single campus in one year is four so you will need to plan accordingly.
  2. A three- to five-page justification memorandum from the campus president.  The justification explains, in specific detail:
    1. why the nominee’s significant achievements justify the awarding of an honorary degree (accomplishments noted must be consistent with the purposes of the SUNY Trustees’ honorary degree program and support state, national or international distinction);
    2. why the particular type of degree is being recommended; and
    3. how the nominee’s achievements are relevant to the nominating campus.
  3.  A two to three-paragraph executive summary (maximum) of the above-described justification memorandum, highlighting the most significant accomplishments of the honoree (relative to the honorary degree program).  This summary should be submitted in Microsoft Word and should begin by identifying the nominee by name, title, present position and/or profession; whether or not they are a SUNY alum and if so, from what campus, year and type of degree awarded; type of honorary degree requested; and proposed date to be awarded. The remainder of the text should summarize the nominee’s most important achievements and the relevance of those achievements to the nominating campus. 
  4. Additional supporting documentation should follow the justification.  These materials will vary for different nominees, but appropriate materials include a detailed resume, Who’s Who entries, reviews or articles about the nominee’s work, a list of major publications, and a list of major awards.  Additional documentation should be kept to a maximum of 5 pages (not including  curriculum vitaes)

Presidents should keep a copy of the nomination materials on campus, as well as any additional documentation about the nominee which was not included as part of the formal submission.

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 System-wide Committee consists of fifteen members:  ten representative from the Distinguished Faculty ranks appointed by the Chancellor, two senior System administrators, and two members of the Board of Trustees. The Committee is chaired by the System Provost. Campus-based members recuse themselves from the review of any nominees from their institution.

Note: For University-Wide Honorary Degree Committee members, participation via video is allowed. Campuses that opt to send their representative(s) in person are expected to cover related expenses.

Initial Approval

The System Provost conveys the Honorary Degree 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 campus president of the initial approval, which provides authority to send letters of invitation to approved nominees. Copies of the letters of invitation are to be e-mailed to the System Provost 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 be e-mailed to the System Provost at: so that the second, final review can commence.

Final Approval

Nominees who accept campus invitations now 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.
Accepted invitations will now be reviewed on a monthly basis for consideration of final approval which will allow campuses and System additional time to publicize (again any publicity or announcement of candidate names is prohibited until final approval is officially conveyed). The System Provost will convey final approval to the campus president 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 campus president. All will discuss next steps.

Distribution of Degrees Among Campus Types

All SUNY campuses, the University Faculty Senate, the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, the Chancellor, the SUNY Board of Trustees and its individual Trustees are eligible to submit honorary degree nominations in response to an annual call for nominations issued by the System Provost on behalf of the Chancellor.

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 campus may submit up to (5) five nominations but award no more than (4) four in any given year. The System Provost, working with Presidents, will ensure that the maximum number is not exceeded.

Previous Degree Recipients

No one already holding an honorary degree from the State University shall be eligible to receive a second honorary degree. A master listing of honorary degree awards is provided to all campuses. All efforts have been made to make this list as accurate as possible; however, we also ask that campuses review the list annually for any omissions/errors.

Site of Conferral of Degree

Honorary degrees may be conferred during the commencement exercises of the campus which initiated the nomination or, after approval from the Chancellor, at other appropriate ceremonies.

Commencement Speakers as Nominees

Presidents who wish to nominate a possible commencement speaker for an honorary degree should follow the same nomination procedure outlined above. The same confidentiality rules apply to commencement speakers nominated for honorary degrees as for all other nominees.  Speakers should not be told in advance that they are being nominated for honorary degrees, since Committee and Trustees approval is not automatic and these nominees will have to meet the program criteria.

Campus Arrangements for Recipients