Wildcat Statue

Guideline: Honorary Degree Recipient / Commencement Speaker

Guideline: Honorary Degree Recipient / Commencement Speaker

This Guideline was approved by the Honorary Degree Recipient/Commencement Speaker Committee.

Honorary Degree Recipient/Commencement Speaker Nomination and Selection Process

Northern Michigan University holds two Commencement ceremonies, which are held in December and April/May and are referred to respectively as the Mid-Year and Spring Commencements.  The Honorary Degree and Commencement Speaker Committee (HDCSC) selects the commencement speaker for the Spring Commencement only.  Graduating students select an NMU faculty or staff member as the Mid-Year Commencement Speaker through a process overseen by ASNMU, the student government.  A commencement speaker may or may not be an honorary degree recipient; an honorary degree recipient may or may not be asked to be the commencement speaker.  Nominations approved by the HDCSC for Spring Commencement Speaker are forwarded to the President, who decides whether to forward the name to the NMU Board of Trustees.  Nominations recommended by the graduating students for the Mid-Year Commencement Speaker follow the same procedure.  In both cases, the NMU Board of Trustees has final approval of the Commencement Speaker.

Northern Michigan University may choose to award individual(s) with an honorary degree at one, both, or neither of its two Commencement ceremonies.  Once an honorary degree nomination has HDCSC approval, it is forwarded to the Provost for consideration.  The Provost, in turn, will make a recommendation to the President, who forwards it (if he or she approves) to the NMU Board of Trustees.  (Note: Per Section 3.6.2 of the AAUP Master Agreement – The Honorary Degree and Commencement Speaker Committee will include at least three (3) faculty chosen at large from the Association.  Effective with new contract approved by the NMU Board of Trustees on July 30, 2020.

Criteria for selection of honorary degree recipients would include achievement in any number of fields of endeavor, including (but not limited to):

  • the arts, sciences, humanities and the professions, and in education, public service, religion and in business who have achieved national or international distinction as a result of outstanding service or accomplishment;
  • The local or regional community who have provided leadership or distinguished service in their respective communities; particular emphasis is on those having a record of strong commitment to the support of K-12 or higher education; and
  • Outstanding services by alumni and former faculty or staff who have achieved special recognition and prominence in their respective fields of endeavor.
  • A former member of the NMU Board of Trustees may be nominated one year after the conclusion of service on the Board.
  • Sitting politicians are not eligible for an Honorary Degree or to be the Commencement Speaker until their term is completed.

Recommendations for the Honorary Degree Recipient(s) and Commencement Speaker shall be made by the Honorary Degree and Commencement Speaker Committee (HDCSC), which shall be constituted as follows:

  • CEO, NMU Foundation, Chair*
  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs**
  • Secretary of the Board of Trustees
  • Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives
  • Registrar
  • Executive Director – Alumni Relations
  • Student Representative – named by the ASNMU President
  • Student Representative – named by the Mortar Board President
  • Graduate Student Representative – named by the Graduate Studies Office
  • Three faculty members selected by the AAUP in accordance with the AAUP Master Agreement
  • One faculty member selected by the NMUFA in accordance with the NMUFA Contract
  • One staff member representing a non-academic unit named by the Vice President for Finance and Administration

*The Chair will only vote in cases of a tie.
**The Provost is a non-voting member.


The HD/CSC’s purpose will be advisory to the President.  It shall maintain a pool of names of candidates for honorary degrees and/or commencement speakers and shall, at regular intervals, communicate names to the Provost and the President for commencement speaker and/or honorary degree consideration.  When a recommendation has been completely vetted through the appropriate approval process, it is then forwarded to the NMU Board of Trustees.  The HDSCS may recommend speakers who do not receive honorary degrees and honorary degree recipients who are not speakers at commencement.

Appointments and Meetings:
Faculty and vice-presidential appointees will serve a 2-year term and students a one-year term that is renewable up to 1 year.  The other members of the HDCSC serve for as long as they remain in the designated position.  The HDCSC will meet once in the fall, typically in October, and once in the spring, typically in April, to consider nominations for honorary degree recipients and commencement speakers.  Meetings will be face-to-face or use distance technology.  A quorum of six voting members is required to finalize a selection.  Selection or support for a candidate will be by simple majority of the voting committee members.  Members unable to attend a meeting where voting will occur may give their proxy to the chair of the committee.

Nominations for Commencement Speaker and/or Honorary Degree recipients can be submitted at any time; however, nominations to be considered for Spring Commencement must be received by November 1 of the academic year (e.g. November 1, 2018 for May 2019 Commencement). Honorary Degree recipient nominations for Mid-Year Commencement must be received by April 1.

Each September and February, the Secretary of the NMU Board of Trustees will invite members of the University Community (students, faculty, staff, alumni, and retirees) to submit nominations to the HDCSC for Commencement Speaker and/or Honorary Degree.

Nominations are required to be accompanied by a biographical sketch and letter from the nominator, and sent via email to board@nmu.edu or via postal mail to: Secretary of the Board, NMU Board of Trustees – from campus: 603 Cohodas Hall; from off-campus: 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI 49855.

A nomination submitted to the HDCSC will remain in the candidate pool for a period of five (5) years and, if not selected during that period, will be removed from the pool.  The nomination must be resubmitted for further consideration.


  1. Nominations are received and reviewed by the HD/CS Selection Committee
  2. Once approved:
    • a.   Commencement Speaker
      • i.   Forwarded to the President for consideration
      • ii.   If approved by the President, he/she forwards to the NMU Board of Trustees
      • iii.   If approved by the BOT, individual is added to the list and a date will be determined for his/her Commencement address
    • b.   Honorary Degree
      • i.   Forwarded to the Provost for consideration
      • ii.   If approved, Provost forwards to the President for consideration
      • iii.   If approved, President forwards to the Board of Trustees for consideration
      • iv.   If approved, individual is added to the list and a date will be determined for his/her awarding of the honorary degree
        • 1.   Once the date is determined, the  Provost will meet with the specific Dean and/or Department Head to determine what degree will be awarded

Updated July 30, 2020 – to reflect 3.6.2 of the AAUP Faculty Master Agreement approved by the Board of Trustees as noted above.

Updated January 2023 – to reflect Executive Director – Alumni Relations and eligibility regarding sitting politicians.

Updated May 2023 – to reflect approval process for Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degrees

Date Approved:8-10-2018
Last Revision:5-1-2023
Last Reviewed:5-1-2023
Approved By:Committee
Oversight Unit:OTHER
Attached form file: Honorary Degree - Commencement Speaker Nomination Form.pdf