Previous Speakers & Honorees
Honorary Degree Recipients
Candidates for honorary degrees shall be persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards who exemplify the ideals of the University of Massachusetts Boston. UMass Boston is fortunate to have such an impressive list of recipients which include government officials, journalists, authors, artists, and athletes.
For centuries, universities have awarded honorary degrees as ways of recognizing extraordinary achievement and affirming institutional values. Our own university’s policy is typical: the recipients of honorary degrees “shall be persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards who exemplify the ideals of the University of Massachusetts”; recipients may not, however, hold federal or state elective office in Massachusetts. The Chancellor’s Medal is a similarly high honor, presented to “distinguished leaders, both in the public and the private sectors, and to outstanding members of our campus community, in recognition of meritorious service to the University and the Commonwealth.”
The University of Massachusetts Boston is rightly recognized for the excellence of its faculty. Each year at commencement, we celebrate the accomplishments of faculty members who have demonstrated exceptional contributions in one of the three primary areas of faculty responsibility by presenting them with the Chancellor’s Awards for Distinguished Scholarship, Service and Teaching.
The JFK Award was originally discussed in 1976, in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Library, and was first awarded in 1977. It was designed to be the highest commencement award that an undergraduate could receive. Nominees are evaluated on the basis of their academic record, their service contributions, and their overall contributions as a "citizen" of the university and of the world. The chosen recipient receives a bust of John F. Kennedy, an honorarium, and the opportunity to speak at the main university commencement ceremony.