By Taylor Rapalyea
The Honorary Degree Program at Simmons College is looking for a few good individuals to become ceremonial “graduates” of the institution. Since 1971, a few men and women of a certain caliber who boast an impressive level of achievement have been bestowed with the degree each year.
Anyone within the Simmons community can nominate candidates with the following information: a summary of the candidates’ achievements, rationale for why they should receive an honorary degree, and their comprehensive contact information. The Honorary Degree Committee looks for nominees whose careers and values align with those of the college, and who have outstanding achievements in their respective fields.
Past recipients have included feminist advocate Gloria Steinem (’73), former president of CBS Arthur R. Taylor (’75), Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman (’86), and human rights activist Bianca Jagger (’08). The 2014 nominees have been confirmed, but their information remains confidential until the spring. In order to receive the degree, nominees must be able to attend the ceremony in person.
“When we get nominations we screen them to see who fits the basic criteria that we’ve set out for these fields,” said Professor Dan Connell, chairman of the honorary degree committee.
Connell went on to compare an honorary degree from Simmons to a Ph.D., emphasizing the amount of work and achievement that is needed to be awarded the honor. The selection of the nominees is no joke either – their background is examined by the committee, which consists of four representatives from the College of Arts and Sciences, and four reps from each of the graduate colleges. They spend the entire fall evaluating nominees.
The final candidates, usually four individuals and two alternates, are then examined by the Office of the Provost, then the Office of the President, then evaluated by the Board of Trustees. To date, no nominees have been rejected by any of the aforementioned parties.
Prior to going to the Provost, candidates are vetted to ensure that there is nothing that would undermine their achievements. In the past, other colleges have been forced to withdraw an honorary degree due to an accusation of corruption, but Simmons has been fortunate enough to not deal with such an issue.
Because the nomination process is so thorough, and aims to leave enough time for nominees to confirm their attendance, the committee gets out in front of the nominations early on. To put it in context, it is currently accepting nominations for 2015’s honorary degree recipient.
Connell stressed that anyone within the Simmons community can suggest a nominee, including faculty, students, and staff. To nominate a candidate, visit http://www.simmons.edu/honorarydegree/.