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Honorary Degrees

What do such notables as Coretta Scott King, Elie Wiesel, Christiane Amanpour, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Aaron Copland, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Margaret Chase Smith have in common? They all are among an elite group of individuals who have been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Rhode Island since 1941.

Each year the URI Honorary Degree Committee invites community members to nominate candidates for honorary degrees to be conferred at the Commencement Ceremonies. The Honorary Degree recipients are those who have distinguished themselves through important contributions to the University, to the State of Rhode Island, or to the nation — individuals who deserve to be honored by the University and who will bring honor to the University by accepting a URI degree.

The Process

The Honorary Degree Committee considers all nominations that have been received each year from the University community and the public. The General Faculty Committee and the parameters considered are described in the 11th Edition of the University Manual, section 5.60.10.

The Committee submits nominees to the president for consideration. With his support, the president submits candidates for approval by the Rhode Island Board of Education. These individuals are therefore approved to receive the doctoral degree, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. One of the nominees may be considered by the president and invited as a keynote speaker.


All nominations received are considered confidential and the Committee recommends and asks that the names of candidates who have been nominated remain confidential. Their names should only be known to those who join in writing letters of reference on behalf of the nominated candidate.

When the entire process is complete, the Honorary Degree recipients are announced by the president to the University Community and the media.

How to Nominate Someone

It’s easy, but your submission must be as complete as possible to provide the Honorary Degree Committee with all of the information needed to consider in evaluating candidates.

  • Start by downloading a nomination form. This will accompany your nomination materials.
  • Gather background information and related details in support of your nomination.
  • Submit all information by Tuesday, September 30, 2014, to Donna Williams, If you have any questions please call 874-4410.

Honorary Degree Committee Members

  • Donald DeHayes, Chair, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Michelle Curreri, Office of the President
  • Laura Cunningham, Greenwich, CT
  • Ann Danis, Music Department
  • Louis Giancola, President & CEO, South County Hospital
  • Bahram Nassersharif, Mechanical Engineering Department
  • Jhodi Redlich, Department of Communications and Marketing
  • Michael Vocino, University Library
  • Student Representatives
  • Staff: Donna Williams, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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