THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY USC has conferred honorary degrees on exemplary individuals in fields such as science, philanthropy, diplomatic relations, social justice and the community.
The honorary degrees given by the university each spring are the highest awards that USC confers, said Thomas L. Henyey, chair of the honorary degrees committee. Henyey is requesting the help of his university colleagues in identifying distinguished individuals to be considered for an honorary degree at future spring commencements.
“An honorary degree is given to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities,” said Henyey, “whether or not they are widely known by the general public. The awards also may honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.”
The degree may also recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.
A CANDIDATE may be nominated by any USC faculty, staff, student, alumni member or trustee. An individual’s nomination need not come from someone in his or her academic area, and nominations of persons with distinguished accomplishments outside of conventional academic fields are also welcomed. Henyey said the committee is particularly interested in candidates whose own accomplishments might serve to highlight areas in which the university has developed exceptional strength.
Confidentiality Is Crucial
Henyey said those who wish to make a nomination should note that confidentiality is crucial to the nomination process. “Under no circumstances should the nominee be informed that his or her name has been put forward,” said Henyey. “Since not all excellent candidates can be recognized,” he added, “a failed nomination can be embarrassing.” In addition, the nominator should not solicit letters of support.
The initial submission of an honorary degree nomination requires a brief summary statement of a few paragraphs, out lining the nominee’s career, achievements, and appropriateness for an honorary degree from USC.
After review by the Honorary Degrees Committee, a group of nominees of outstanding distinction and accomplishment are recommended to President Steven B. Sample, who then forwards a slate for approval to the Academic Affairs Committee of the board of trustees and the full board of trustees.
THE FOLLOWING individuals have received honorary degrees in the past three years:
• Warren Christopher, doctor of humane letters. Former U. S. Secretary of State, distinguished lawyer, and recipient of the nation’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom.
• Jon M. Huntsman, doctor of humane letters. Chemical company executive, philanthropist, distinguished alumnus, and champion of higher education and humanitarian causes.
• Rosa Parks, doctor of humane letters. “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” moral leader and advocate for social justice.
• Flora Laney Thornton, doctor of humane letters. Philanthropist, community leader, advocate of medicine, and patron of the arts.
• Roy A. Anderson, doctor of laws. Chairman of the Weingart Foundation and chairman emeritus of Lockheed Corp.
• Leonore Annenberg, doctor of humane letters. Vice chairman and vice president of the Annenberg Foundation, philanthropist and visionary supporter of education and the arts.
• William H. Cosby, Jr., doctor of fine arts. Con sum mate entertainer, longstanding supporter of education and philanthropist.
• Edward C. Stone, doctor of science. Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, vice president and David Morrisroe Professor of Physics at Caltech.
• Quincy Jones, doctor of music. Renowned musician, composer, producer, arranger, and conductor.
• Jean-Pierre Changeux, doctor of science. Distinguished neuroscientist; professor, College de France; and director, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Pasteur Institute in Paris.
• Michael Greene, doctor of music. Outstanding leader in music and arts education; president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
• Jack Kemp, doctor of laws. The 1997 Commencement speaker, co-director, Em power America, and 1996 vice presidential candidate.
• Katherine Bogdanovich Loker, doctor of humane letters. Lifetime supporter of teaching, research and community service; philanthropist; and devoted USC alumna.
• Kathleen Leavey Mc Carthy, doctor of humane letters. Champion of higher education in Southern California; philanthropist, and dedicated USC alumna and Trustee.
• William Wrigley, doctor of humane letters. Visionary environmentalist, philanthropist; prominent USC trustee and president and CEO of William Wrigley, Jr. Co.
Honorary Degree Nomination Process Is Two-Tiered
The Honorary Degrees Committee nomination process is two-tiered. The initial submission requires a brief summary statement of a few paragraphs, indicating which of the four university purposes for awarding an honorary degree the nominee meets (see story) and outlining the nominee’s career, achievements and appropriateness for an honorary degree from USC.
If the Honorary Degrees Committee decides to pursue the nomination, additional information will then be requested from the nominator. Simultaneously, the Provost’s Office will ask the relevant department and dean for their statements of support.
The following questions should be answered in the nominator’s summary statement:
• What is the specific content of the nominee’s contribution?
• What is original about that contribution?
• Of all possible contributors to the field of endeavor, why is this nominee of exceptional merit?
• Why is the field of the nominee especially appropriate to USC?
Official notification of the university’s wish to confer an honorary degree upon an individual is made by the president on behalf of the Honorary Degrees Committee and the board of trustees.
The committee must work one year in advance of the specific commencement for which it is making its recommendations. For example, nominations received and reviewed throughout the 1999-2000 academic year are ranked at the March 2000 meeting and the top nominees are forwarded to the provost for the May 2001 commencement.
Nominations should be submitted to: Chair, Honorary Degrees Committee
c/o Office of the Provost, ADM 300
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019
HAVE QUESTIONS?: Call 740-6713
More stories about: Commencement 1999