Office of Ceremonies

Honorary degree procedures and guidelines

I. Criteria and guidelines

Honorary degrees recognize those who have made profound and enduring contributions to scholarship, culture, and improved quality of life in society at large. Achievements of national or international significance deserve priority consideration. It is important that recipients be persons of great integrity, as the choices we make reflect our values as an institution.

There are some necessary restrictions to be considered:

In accordance with state statute, “No degree shall ever be conferred in consideration of the payment of money or the giving of property of whatsoever kind.” RCW 28B.20.130

Declared candidates running for public office are not appropriate nominees for honorary degrees.

Honorary degrees may not be conferred in absentia.

II. Titles of honorary degrees available for conferral

Doctor of Arts (D.A.) – Design, visual, and performing arts

Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) – Service to society (humanitarianism) and scholarship in the humanities (journalism, communication, history, philosophy, language, and literature) and social sciences

Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) – Law, public policy, and public service

Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) – Science, medicine, engineering, and related fields

III. Process for nominations

Nominations for candidates may come from a variety of sources, including individual faculty members, departments, programs, schools, colleges, or campuses. They must be submitted through the office of a dean or chancellor. Consultation with respective college councils or departmental faculties is recommended.

Nominations should be submitted to the special committee on honorary degrees at least 6 months in advance of the June commencement.

Initial nominations should give a brief summary of the individual’s accomplishments and reason for considering the individual for an honorary degree. After initial consideration, the special committee may request additional material in support of a nomination. The initial nomination should:

  • Be signed by the proposer(s) and the respective dean or chancellor;
  • Briefly describe the individual’s accomplishments, including contributions to society, culture, scholarship, science, or art; and
  • If available, include a brief biography of the person.

Additional letters supporting the nomination may be included.

IV. Review, selection and notification

The special committee on honorary degrees will screen nominations and recommend, with supporting rationale, up to four finalists to the President, one for each of the four honorary degrees available.

The President will select the nominations to present to the Board of Regents.

Only the Board of Regents is authorized to award honorary degrees. Only after action by the Board of Regents should the nominee be informed of the honor; this will be coordinated by the Office of the President.

VI. Confidentiality

Every effort will be made to ensure that individual nominations and discussions of nominees be confidential throughout the process. No publicity shall be issued regarding the nominees until final approval by the Board of Regents.