Honorary Doctoral Degrees Committee


The Board of Regents of Washington State University has statutory authority to award the Honorary Doctoral Degree, an award of the highest esteem, to individuals who have made profound and enduring contributions to their field of scholarship and improved quality of life to society at large.  In recognition of their learning or devotion to literature, art, or science, recipients will be individuals of great integrity whose contribution will enhance the intellectual climate of Washington State University.

In accordance with state statute RCW 28B.30.150(15), degrees may be conferred upon persons other than graduates of WSU, and no degree shall ever be conferred in consideration of the payment of money or the giving of property of whatsoever kind.

Declared candidates running for public office are not appropriate nominees for honorary degrees.


The Honorary Doctoral Degree Committee is responsible for processing and reviewing nominations for honorary degrees.  The committee:

  • Administers the process by which nominations for honorary degrees are made and reviewed.
  • Receives nominations for honorary degrees from any member of the University community.
  • Reviews and investigates nominations. The committee has the discretion to recommend or not recommend any candidate for any reason, including but not limited to reasons related to the University’s mission, vision, and values, including values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Recommends approved candidates to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee and to the president.
  • Upon approval from the president and Faculty Senate Steering Committee, the president refers the recommended nominees to the Board of Regents for final confirmation.


The committee will establish a deadline and solicit nominations each year early in the fall semester. Any University community member may nominate an individual or individuals using the honorary degree nomination form. A detailed letter of nomination, complete biographical material, and the names and addresses of 3 individuals who have direct knowledge of the nominee and the nominee’s accomplishments should accompany the nomination form. No disclosure is to be made to the nominee while their name is under consideration. Upon receipt of a nomination, the committee will review the material and, if necessary, request additional information from the nominator, other appropriate individuals, or academic units.

  • If the committee fails to recommend the nominee, no further consideration is given to the nomination.
  • If the committee recommends a nominee(s), all materials are submitted simultaneously to the president of the University and to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee.
  • If either the president or the Faculty Senate Steering Committee fails to recommend the nominee, no further consideration is given to the individual.
  • If the president and the Faculty Steering Committee recommend the nominee, all materials are submitted to the Board of Regents, and the board makes a final decision regarding the awarding of the degree. Given the special nature of the honorary degrees, they should be awarded after careful and thorough deliberation. The regents may elect not to award any honorary degrees in a given year or decide that up to 3 individuals are worthy of this special recognition.

Honorary degrees are conferred at official University-wide ceremonies, such as commencement and convocation.

Compostition and Tenure:

  • 12 faculty members, including at least 1 member from each degree-granting college, and at least 1 from a non-Pullman campus, with 3-year staggered terms.  6 members, including the chair, appointed by the president (F-P); 6 members appointed by the Faculty Senate Steering Committee (F-FS).
  • Provost, Faculty Senate Executive Representative, and Vice President for the Office of Research all serve as non-voting ex-officio members.

The committee chair is appointed by and responsible to the president.


Every effort will be made to ensure that individual nominations and discussions of nominees remain confidential throughout the process.  However, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.  No publicity shall be issued regarding the nominees before final approval by the Board of Regents.

Committee membership

Shelden, Eric

Faculty Senate Chair
Ex officio

Austin, Erica

Murrow College of Communication
Committee term end: 2025

Felsot, Allan

Affiliate Professor, School of the Environment
Department of Entomology, CAHNRS
Committee term end: 2027

Jansen, Heiko

The School of Biological Sciences
CAS, Pullman
Committee term end: 2024

McCracken, Vicki

School of Economic Sciences
Extension, Pullman
Committee term end: 2024

McPherson, Sterling

Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
Committee term end: 2024

Meier, Kathryn

College of Pharmacy
Committee term end: 2024

Mercier, Laurie

Professor of History
College of Arts & Sciences
Committee term end: 2027

Chilton, Elizabeth

Chancellor, Pullman

Potter, Nancy

Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
Speech and Hearing Sciences
Committee term end: 2025

Van Son, Catherine

College of Nursing
WSU, Vancouver
Committee term end: 2024

Honorary Doctoral Degrees Granted

2021: Dr. William D. Lipe, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, Society for American Archaeology Presidential Recognition recipient, 2017.

2021: Dr. Ralph G. Yount, Emeritus Regents Professor, Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, WSU.  Chair, WSU Department of Chemistry.

2019: Mark Pigott, Executive Chair, Board of Directors, PACCAR, Inc., and notable philanthropist, humanitarian, and arts aficionado

2018: R. James Cook, former Chief Scientist, United States Department of Agriculture and WSU Professor Emeritus, Plant Pathology and Crop and Soil Sciences

2016: Elson S. Floyd, former President of Washington State University

2014: Jordan D. Schnitzer, President, Harsch Investment Properties and President, Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation

2007: Johnnetta Cole, former WSU faculty member and administrator, President Emerita, Spelman College (Atlanta) and Bennett College (North Carolina)

2005: Clarence A. Ryan Jr., emeritus professor and plant biochemistry researcher, WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry; first WSU professor in National Academy of Sciences

1995: Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, “Green Revolution”

1991: Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

1990: Howard Nemerov, U.S. Poet Laureate

1966: C. Clement French, WSU president

1951: Edwin H. Burgess, Class of 1910, former vice president and general counsel, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

1950: Joel E. Ferris, Spokane civic leader; Charles Glen King, Class of 1918, world nutrition authority who isolated and identified Vitamin C

1949: George Fredrick Jewett, timber industrialist and Potlatch Corp. founder

1947: William Edward Boeing, Boeing Co. founder and retired chairman of the Boeing Co. board; Eric Allen Johnston, Motion Picture Association of America president and former Spokane business leader and former U.S. Chamber of Commerce president

1946: Edward R. Murrow, Class of 1930, broadcast journalist; Al G. Sparling, Spokane KGA Radio chief engineer (honorary degree of communication engineer)

1945: Lewis B. Schwellenbach, U.S. senator from Washington serving as U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Washington

1944: Frank A. Banks, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineer, headed Grand Coulee Dam project; William J. Coulter, Climax Molybdenum Co. president; Arthur E. Drucker, dean, WSC School of Mines and Geology; Richard E. Fuller, Seattle Art Museum founder; Ceylon S. Kingston, retired Eastern Washington University vice president; William C. Kruegel, WSC comptroller; James C. Thomson, University of Saskatchewan president

1943: Henry J. Kaiser, American industrialist, worked in Spokane, helped build Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams, during World War II built “Liberty Ships” on West Coast, including in Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore.

1929: Enoch A. Bryan, WSC president; O.L. Waller, WSC vice president