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Honorary Degrees

The Guilford College Board of Trustees may choose to award one or more honorary degrees to recognize individuals who have a sustained record of achievements of lasting significance. 

Purpose/Reason for Policy: To establish the criteria and process for recommending and awarding honorary degrees from Guilford College.

Scope/Covered Persons: This policy applies to all members of the Guilford College Community involved in the nomination or selection of candidates for honorary degrees.

The Policy:  

The awarding of honorary degrees is a long standing tradition of many colleges and universities, including colleges founded by the Society of Friends. The honorary degree is one of the highest recognitions any college can bestow and is intended to honor an individual who has a sustained record of achievements of lasting significance. Associating these honorees more closely with Guilford is anticipated to raise the profile of the College, thereby benefiting admissions, overall engagement, and philanthropy. The Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Humane Letters, or Doctor of Science may be awarded to individuals who meet the stated criteria.  No more than one honorary degree would be awarded in any academic year.  


Persons nominated for consideration for honorary degrees should have made distinguished and broad contributions to society. These may be in the traditional areas of scholarship and creative arts, research and development, the learned professions, public service, philanthropy or business and industry. It would be desirable for these contributions to reflect all or most of Guilford’s core values (Community, Diversity, Equality, Excellence, Integrity, Justice, and Stewardship), with an emphasis on Excellence and Integrity. Contributions to society that reflect principled problem solving are also desirable.

It is desirable, but not required, that the people selected have had some connection with Guilford College and its mission. It is also desirable, but not required, that some recipients of an honorary degree be widely known by the general public. Persons currently serving on the faculty or staff of the College are not normally eligible.

Roles and Responsibilities: 

  • Any member of the community:  May submit nomination for consideration.
  • ad hoc Honorary Degree Committee: Considers the nominations and recommends up to three nominees to the faculty for approval. 
  • The President: (1) Solicit confidential nominations for an honorary degree recipient from faculty, staff, students, alumni, the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors. (2) In consultation with the chair of the subcommittee, s/he prioritizes the list of recommendations, which includes all candidates who have been approved by the faculty over the previous five years, and (3) The president selects candidates to receive the honorary degree.
  • Board of Trustees: Final approval authority for all honorary degrees.  

Other related Policies, Regulations, Statutes and Documents:  The Nomination form is a draft that is intended to be consistent with the policy information herein. Any changes to this form would need to preserve that consistency.  LINK

Procedures: Early in the academic year, but no later than September 15, the Office of the President will solicit confidential nominations for an honorary degree recipient from faculty, staff, students, alumni, the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors. Nominations will be due on or before November 1. Those making and supporting nominations should be knowledgeable in the nominee's field of accomplishment and therefore in a position to make an evaluation.

Each nomination must be accompanied by a letter of nomination including a biographical sketch of the individual. Nominations may be co-sponsored by up to two individuals from the Guilford community. Nominations will be submitted to the Office of the President.

In any year in which nominations are received, the Clerk’s Committee will appoint an ad hoc Honorary Degree Committee, in consultation with the President, to review the nominations and supporting material. The committee may choose to seek additional information provided that the confidentiality of the process is preserved. The committee should consider any potential conflicts of interest for any of the nominees. 

No later than December 1, the committee will recommend to the faculty up to three nominees to receive an honorary degree. These nominations will be considered at the December faculty meeting, and the faculty may recommend that any or none of the nominees be awarded an honorary degree. Provided that the faculty recommend at least one nominee, and based on the faculty recommendation and any additional consultation, the President will recommend the person, if any, to receive an honorary degree. The President’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for their review and approval. 

Honorary degrees will ordinarily be awarded at the opening academic convocation of the following academic year. The degree may be awarded at the spring commencement exercises on the recommendation of the Convocation and Celebrations Committee.

Approval Authority: The Guilford College Board of Trustees

Responsible Office: The Office of the President

Revision History: November 2011