University searches for 2018 Honorary Degree recipient

Photo Courtesy of University of Puget Sound

By Marcelle Rutherfurd

Photo Courtesy of University of Puget Sound

On Saturday, Oct. 21, President Isiaah Crawford sent an email to the campus community asking for nominations for honorary degree candidates for 2018. Honorary degrees are an important part of how a University or college operates in the world.

“Honorary degrees underscore the values and aspirations of a college and bring honor — and occasionally notoriety — to the college by virtue of association. More important, the honorary degree honors the recipient and recognizes that education is a community enterprise and does not happen only within the university setting,” Liz Collins, Board Secretary, said.

The email to campus noted the necessary characteristics of an honorary degree recipient, namely “notable academic reputation” and “record of outstanding contributions to the betterment of the regional, national or global community through one of the main areas of public life such as business, government, education, public service, science, the arts or religion.”

One past honorary degree recipient was Georgiana Kautz, the Natural Resource Manager for the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Kautz was one of three degree recipients for 2017. The other two recipients were Timothy Egan, a writer, and Fred D. Gray, a civil rights attorney. In 2016, a degree was awarded to Carla Santorno, the Superintendent of the Tacoma Public Schools.

“Last year’s presentation to Georgiana Kautz, a leader of the Nisqually people, and natural resources manager for the Nisqually Tribe, recognized her lifetime of teaching and stewardship of the environment,” Collins said.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen by a committee that is representative of the Puget Sound campus. The committee is governed by a series of rules and regulations, the documentation of which is available on the University website.

“The Committee shall consist of the Dean of the University (ex officio), two appointed faculty members, two trustees, two students and two alumni,” the document reads.

The individuals receiving these degrees did not actually complete their education here at Puget Sound, so the degree given is different than a degree that a undergraduate or graduate student would receive from the University. It is more of an honor recognizing how an individual embodies the values of the University.

“It is important to remember that it is the faculty who recommend the curriculum and requirements for graduation and who present all candidates for graduation. The faculty’s endorsement of honorary degree candidates via the Faculty Senate affirms the centrality of the faculty to the mission of the University and the qualities of our graduates, whether earned or honorary,” Collins said.

In the email to campus, President Crawford discussed the fact that the person chosen should embody the mission statement of the University. This is the key piece of this whole process. The individuals in charge of choosing who ultimately receives this honor consider how they line up with the values of our University to be very important.

“In any given year, the candidates will be emblematic of specific aspects of Puget Sound’s mission, and occasionally of very current events,” Collins said.

“While the committee does not overtly seek a theme for a given year, it seems to happen that there is a thread of connection — again, all going back to the mission of the college — in engaged citizenship, in achievement, in lifelong learning, in making the world a better place.”