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Office of the Provost

USM Honorary Degree Policy


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The honorary doctorate is among the highest forms of recognition The University of Southern Mississippi can bestow.

By awarding honorary doctorates to individuals of notable, outstanding qualities, the University seeks to present to its several constituencies veritable models worthy of emulation and respect. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the people of the state as a whole should recognize in the honorary degree recipients qualities they consider particularly relevant to their own experiences, whether these are scholarship, creative activity, a vocation, public service, University service, or a profession.

Since persons from any segment of the University community can initiate nominations for an honorary doctorate, the achievements of individuals that prompt nominations will reflect the broad spectrum of values expressed in contemporary culture. The University is committed to the important and challenging task of selecting those nominees most appropriate for recognition as exemplary models for all of us.

The Commencement ceremony where the degree is awarded will focus attention on the interface between the University and society. The qualities of the person honored should reflect the values of academia and The University of Southern Mississippi.



The honorary doctorate shall be a Doctor of Humane Letters, a Doctor of Laws, or a Doctor of Science. If one of those degrees is not appropriate, the Honorary Degree Committee ("Committee") may recommend another standard honorary doctorate (see attached spreadsheet).



For all honorary degree nominees, scholarly, creative, professional, service, or occupational achievements should be placed in a framework of high personal integrity and concern for the public good. Nominees for the honorary degree should have demonstrated in their life and their work high standards of excellence as evidenced by the following criteria of scholarship, creative activity, or service:  

  • Major distinction at the state or national level in areas such as education, public service, research, humanities, business, or the professions.

  • An honorary degree may be awarded to a person who has made an especially outstanding and significant contribution to the system, the University, or higher education.

  • Through excellence in any calling or occupation, has visibly contributed to the development of society and serves as a model for present and future generations.

  • Has made distinctive and significant contributions in wholehearted commitment to the development of The University of Southern Mississippi.

  • The University strives to achieve balance among the types of awardees including but not limited to humanitarians, donors, scholars, and distinguished alumni.


Special Conditions of Eligibility 

  • Elected or appointed public officials in state or local government, and members and employees of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) are NOT eligible for award of any honorary degree during their terms of office or employment and for one (1) year thereafter (IHL policy, section 513).

  • Retired or former faculty and staff members are eligible for an award of an honorary degree if they meet the same high standards for nomination as all other honorary degree nominees.


Other Limitations 

  • The honorary degree may not be awarded in absentia, except under unusual circumstances and as approved by the Honorary Degree Committee. The IHL policy limits universities to awarding two honorary degrees per academic year.


The Honorary Degree Committee

The Honorary Degree Committee is a standing University committee chaired by the University Provost or his/her designee. The chair is a non-voting member. The Committee shall meet a minimum of four times: in September and October and in April and May, or subject to call as needed. The Committee must follow the Preferred Schedule specified in the policy except in extraordinary circumstances, when the Alternate Schedule may be followed with prior permission from the Office of the Provost. The committee consists of the following or his/her designee:  

  • Chair of the Council of Chairs

  • Chair of the Graduate Council

  • President of the Staff Council

  • Dean's Council Representative

  • Executive Director of The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Association

  • Executive Director of The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation

  • President of the Faculty Senate

  • President of the Graduate Student Senate

  • President of the Student Government Association



All nominations are referred to the Honorary Degree Committee, whose recommendation is transmitted by its chairperson to the Provost, who will then make a recommendation to the  University President. After review and approval by the President, the nominee's name and supporting documents are submitted to IHL for formal action.  

  • Nominations for Honorary Degrees are to be submitted in confidence to the Committee by any member of the University community: faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni, or friends of the University. Nominees may remain eligible for consideration by the Committee for a period of two years. After that period, nominees must be re-submitted for consideration.
  • Deliberations of this committee are strictly confidential.
  • Nomination materials need not be extensive but should indicate the extraordinary nature of the candidate's life and contributions and should document the support of appropriate campus constituencies. The selection process involves two stages: screenings review and full review. The committee will screen nominees and forward recommendations to the Provost based on a 60% affirmative vote of the members present. A quorum will exist when 5 of the 9 voting members are present; an affirmative vote of the quorum will be 3 of 5 members. Neither proxies nor absentee ballots are allowed.


Additional Documentation

For the screening review, the following confidential documentation is required:

  • A letter of nomination from the primary nominator to include a brief narrative explaining why the candidate is worthy of an honorary doctorate from The University of Southern Mississippi.


For the full review, the following additional confidential documentation is required:

  • A curriculum vitae or resume (if applicable)

  • A detailed list of accomplishments

  • At least three letters of recommendation from the University community, usually including faculty, staff, distinguished scholars, administrators, students, and alumni.

  • Nominators may be asked by the Committee to expand the nominee's dossier and to solicit statements of support from other constituencies.



The Preferred Schedule and further guidelines may be found in the full policy document.


- revised October 2019 

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