Call for honorary degree nominations

Among the distinguished recipients of Washington University honorary degrees are (clockwise from left): Grammy-winning jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald (1974); former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright (2003); civil rights icon John Lewis (2016); Nobel Prize winners Elie Wiesel (2011) and Rita Levi-Montalcini (1982); and renowned filmmaker Ken Burns (2015).

All members of the Washington University in St. Louis community are invited to nominate honorary degree candidates for the May 2022 Commencement.

The Honorary Degree Task Force of the Board of Trustees is accepting nominations until Feb. 1. To nominate distinguished individuals, visit the Board of Trustees website.

The task force comprises students, faculty, administrators and trustees.

When considering nominees, the task force will be looking for distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions through their scholarly accomplishments, professional achievements and/or humanitarian service and impact on society.

Other criteria for strong candidates include individuals who have provided outstanding service to Washington University and the St. Louis community as well as those who would bring a heightened level of interest and excitement to the Commencement exercises. The task force is particularly interested in nominations of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

The university has a long tradition, dating to 1859, of awarding honorary degrees to individuals who have made significant contributions.

The impressive list of past recipients includes pioneers and leaders in their respective fields, including Nobel Prize winners Stanley Cohen, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Elie Wiesel; civil rights activists Frankie Muse Freeman, John Lewis and Joe Madison; filmmakers Ken Burns and Henry Hampton; musicians Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones; writers Carlos Fuentes, James Michener and Eudora Welty; athletes Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith; politicians Madeleine Albright, Michael Bloomberg and Cory Booker; and playwrights A.E. Hotchner and August Wilson, among many others.

Nominations for the Commencement speaker also are considered through this honorary degree selection process.

The task force will meet in March to consider nominations before submitting a potential list of recipients to the full board. The Board of Trustees will select the final candidates for honorary degrees by vote at their meeting later in the spring.

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