Honorary Degrees & Commencement Speaker Nomination & Selection Process
Any member of the Smith community—students, faculty, staff, alumnae, trustees—may nominate an individual for an honorary degree and/or to serve as Commencement speaker.
The president sends an email to the junior class in the spring to encourage juniors to nominate individuals of stature as their Commencement speaker.
In the late spring, the president typically meets with a group of junior class leaders to talk about the selection of the speaker. Acknowledged in this meeting is the fact that highly visible personalities—heads of state and media celebrities, in particular—are much sought after, have complicated schedules and can be difficult to secure.
Eligibility for an honorary degree is defined follows: “The college will consider women who are exemplars of excellence in a wide range of fields, both academic and non-academic. The college will also consider women and men who have had special impact on Smith College, on the education of women, or on women’s lives.”
All nominations are reviewed by the Committee on Honorary Degrees to decide whether they meet the criteria for receiving an honorary degree. The committee is comprised of three students (the president of the senior class for one year and the president of the junior class for two years), three members of the faculty and three staff members (appointed by the president), and is chaired by the president. The committee makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees, and the president selects and invites honorands from a list of approved nominees.