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Honorary Degrees

Purpose of and criteria for UNCW honorary degrees

Revised by the Faculty Senate in Spring 2000, Fall 2000, and Spring 2005.


Honorary degrees are granted by the faculty and trustees of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and may be granted at commencements or special events. Current honorary degrees awarded are Doctors of Humanities, of Letters, of Fine Arts, of Science, and of Laws. Other honorary degrees can be recommended by the Academic Standards Committee (ASC). An honorary degree is the highest accolade the university can bestow on an individual who is not currently employed as a member of its faculty or staff. It is given to honor an individual who possesses outstanding qualities and talents, who has made exceptional contributions to the field of his or her endeavor, and who exemplifies the highest standards of personal integrity and civic responsibility. The individual may not be an employee of the university at the time the degree is awarded. There are three basic reasons for awarding honorary degrees from the university. A person may be recommended for an honorary degree for any one of the following reasons:

  1. Academic excellence in the individual's field of endeavor.
  2. Appreciation of time, energy, and financial resources spent on behalf of the university and for its sake.
  3. Excellence in fields other than those which would normally be called academic, i.e., the contributions which have enhanced society and its quality of life.
Procedures for nominating and evaluating candidates for honorary degrees
  1. Nominations may be made at any time to the Academic Standards Committee or the Faculty Senate President by any member of the University community or by any academic department.
  2. Nominations shall be submitted on the prescribed form. The form should be accompanied by a single page of supporting information documenting the candidate's qualifications. The nominees should not be contacted. Such information can be obtained from local resources or reputable sources, such as Who's Who and the Internet. The identity of nominees should only be known to the nominator, members of the ASC, voting members of the Faculty Senate, the Provost, the Chancellor and Board of Trustees, depending on how far the nomination goes through the process as per item 8 below.
  3. Typically, nominations need to be received by the ASC no later than October 1 or March 1 to be considered for the Fall or Spring commencements, respectively. However, the granting of honorary degrees is not restricted to commencements. Nominations for awards to be granted during special events should be submitted at least two months prior to the event in order to track the process in due time.
  4. Nominations will be evaluated by the ASC at its next regularly scheduled meeting. That a nomination has been made will be announced at least five working days before the scheduled meeting; the name of the nominee will not be made public. Nominating materials will be made available by the ASC chair for review by committee voting members prior to the meeting.
  5. ASC will recommend for or against approval of the nomination with a recommendation as to the degree to be awarded. A simple majority of ASC voting members present is necessary for approval. Such action will be noted on an honorary degree tracking form. If approved, the nomination will be recommended to the Senate at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Any nomination which fails to receive Academic Standards Committee endorsement but which is supported by two or more members of the Academic Standards Committee shall be reported to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee. The Steering Committee may either accept the report as information or, by majority vote of the committee, forward the nomination to the faculty Senate for consideration at its next meeting.
  6. If a nomination is not supported by the Academic Standards Committee, the Chancellor may present support of the nomination to the Steering Committee and the Academic Standards Committee Chair. The Steering Committee may either accept the report as information or, by majority vote of the committee, forward the nomination to the Faculty Senate for consideration at its next meeting.
  7. If the Faculty Senate approves the nomination, the Senate President will forward it, with accompanying documentation, to the Provost, who will then forward it to the Chancellor for recommendation to the Board of Trustees; if the Senate disapproves the nomination, it dies in the Senate. Approval or disapproval of the recommendation by the Senate shall be announced while the Senate is still in executive session and made known to the nominator and the Provost’s Office by the Senate President.
  8. Confidentiality at all points in the nominating process is crucial. No discussion concerning nominees should take place outside of those directly involved in the evaluation process or the formal evaluation meetings. Discussion and voting will be in executive session by all evaluating groups, as specifically allowed by the State open meetings law.