Saint Xavier University Commencement


Honorary Degrees and Commencement Speakers

Saint Xavier University Criteria for Selecting Honorary Degree Recipients and Commencement Speakers


Attentive to its Catholic heritage and purpose, Saint Xavier University awards honorary degrees to individuals whose values and accomplishments in their field of endeavor are consistent with the mission, core values and ideals of the University. Recognizing that Commencement is a formal public celebration for students, trustees, faculty, staff, families, friends and the civic community, awarding honorary degrees and inviting persons to be Commencement speakers serve as sources of celebration and inspiration.

The University will consider individuals for an honorary degree and/or Commencement speaker who have achieved a public, persistent and positive presence in the enterprise of advancing a higher culture. This consideration will take place within a context of ethical concern and social responsibility. The University values especially superior teaching, artistic expression, intellectual rigor, service to the poor and encouragement of religious faith. It holds in high regard the liberal arts and sciences, the professions and a special interest in women and children. Honorary degrees or invitations to Commencement speakers will not be given to individuals who advocate views that conflict with the mission and core values of the University.


The following criteria are provided so that those making the nominations will supply specific examples to support the following general statements.

Decisions to award honorary degrees usually should be separated from decisions about who should deliver Commencement addresses. Individuals may receive honorary degrees without giving a formal address, or speak without receiving an honorary degree.

  1. Honorary degrees and invitations to Commencement speakers should be given only to individuals who have compiled an extended record of exemplary accomplishments in their chosen field or in service to society.
  2. Consideration should be given not only to the achievements of the individual, but also to the manner of accomplishing those achievements and to the “ripple effect” that the individual has on the Church, community and/or society.
  3. All fields of endeavor may be considered, but the University will give preference to those fields of endeavor that reflect its mission and core values.
  4. Preference should be given to candidates who specifically reflect the mission and core values of the University and the Sisters of Mercy.
  5. Ordinarily, the awarding of an honorary degree should be part of a long-term plan for cultivation and engagement of the recipient.
  6. There should be a reasonable chance that the nominee will accept the honorary degree and/or be the Commencement speaker.
  7. Ordinarily, elected government officials in the United States, whether at the federal, state, county or local level – shall not be eligible for consideration during their term of office or if they are announced and filed candidates for elected office.
  8. An honorary degree may be given posthumously.
  9. Candidates for an honorary degree cannot be employed members or voting trustees of the University.
  10. Ordinarily, the following honorary degrees may be granted:

    Doctor of Humanities   Doctor of Laws
    Doctor of Education   Doctor of Arts and Letters
    Doctor of Science   Doctor of Public Service
    Doctor of Theology   Doctor of Business Administration


  1. A formal process should guide both the nomination of candidates for an honorary degree and the selection of Commencement speakers. The process should be staffed by the Office of the President and monitored by the Executive Committee.
    Members of the Board of Trustees shall be invited periodically to suggest candidates for honorary degrees and Commencement speakers. In addition, faculty, staff, students and administration, as well as members of the Commencement Protocol committee, shall assist in the nomination of candidates for the honorary degree and Commencement speakers with the online nomination form.
  2. Those nominating a candidate for an honorary degree and/or Commencement speaker should provide a short statement indicating the reasons for the nomination in relation to the criteria.
  3. The nomination form can be found and submitted online.
  4. The Executive Committee: 
    1. Reviews each complete nomination in relation to the criteria listed above.
    2. Recommends its final selections to the full Board. All trustees maintain confidentiality.
  5. The Board of Trustees authorizes the President to grant the honorary degree.
  6. The Office of the President: 
    1. Makes an initial decision on each nomination as to the adequacy of the background information on the individual.
    2. Contacts the individual to determine if the candidate will accept the degree and/or be the Commencement speaker.
    3. Makes the formal announcement regarding who will receive the honorary degree and/or the Commencement speaker.
    4. Follows the established protocol for communicating with the recipient and/or speaker prior to the Commencement ceremony.
  7. Honorary Degree recipients will be reimbursed for legitimate travel and expenses, but normally will not be offered an honorarium or appearance fee.


  1. The criteria and process for selecting honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers shall be formal, written and available to trustees, administrators and appropriate members of the University community.
  2. The criteria and process for selecting honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers shall be subject to periodic review and revision by the Executive Committee and the full Board of Trustees.

Approved by the Board of Trustees, February 15, 2006
Abridged March 10, 2011