ASU Will Not Award Obama with Honorary Degree

Our 44th and first African American US president, Barack Obama, will speak at ASU’s commencement ceremony on May 13, however he will not be awarded with an honorary degree as his current body of work does not meet the university’s criteria. After much controversy on the school’s decision, ASU has decided to name a scholarship program after the president.


ASU spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said the university awards honorary degrees based on a person’s “lifetime achievements” and President Barack Obama’s presidency has only just begun.

“Because President Obama’s body of work is yet to come, it’s inappropriate to recognize him at this time,” Keeler said.

The scholarship program will be named the “President Barack Obama Scholars” and will help students who have high financial needs, the university said.

“It has always been our intention to recognize and honor President Obama’s accomplishments during his visit,” ASU President Michael Crow said.

An ASU committee selected and invited President Obama to be its commencement speaker, in which he accepted in March. However, a separate six-member committee that chooses each honorary candidate, did not nominate the president as a recipient for the degree. ASU usually only awards one or two people each year and ASU will not be awarding anyone this spring, Keeler said.

In the past, those who have received honorary degrees from ASU had “long-established careers in their fields of work” and are not necessarily affiliated with the school, Keeler said. Last spring, ASU presented an honorary degree to James Duderstadt, a professor emeritus of the University of Michigan and an international leader in higher education. In 2006, degrees went to Chinese vice minister of education, Wu Qidi, and to Frank H. T. Rhodes, Cornell University’s former president.

This will be President Barack Obama’s second visit to Arizona in his first five months in office. The ceremony, on Wednesday, May 13 at 7 p.m., is expected to celebrate about 8.000 graduating ASU students.

On May 17, Obama will speak at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony as well as receive an honorary degree, as it is conventional for all Notre Dame’s graduation speakers to receive this degree.

President Crow of ASU said to local Arizona newspapers that the university has a policy of not awarding the degree to politicians in office and would not reverse its decision.

President Obama already has degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law, where he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, according to Wikipedia.

  1. at first i was like …what!?!?!?! WHY!!!???? but then i realized…they’re right. he doesn’t have anyreal lifetime achievements yet. HOPEFULLY he will have some really amazing ones!!!!!

  2. This article only mentions in passing the news that ASU would name the university’s largest scholarship program in President Obama’s honor. While the communication of the degree issue went extremely badly, the scholarship program is actually a better, long lasting tribute, with more than 1,000 students each year receiving aid.

  3. Yea I agree with their decision, and I like the idea of naming a scholarship after him. I do think it’s really cool he’s speaking at ASU’s graduation though!

  4. Those are some lucky students. I hate to say that I don’t even recall who spoke at my graduation and it was less than four years ago. (I remember my high school graduation more!)

  5. He wants to speak at the largest studnt body in the United States! His messages reaches more people and i agree with the ASU decision. I do not understand why this is done so often. ASU has growned in some many positive ways and this is a great example of them again not following the pack. This is good for ASU!

  6. I would have to agree with Don’s comments above. So what if he doesn’t get some lame honorary degree for just being there to speak?
    The scholarship will help out more individuals hopefully.

  7. Are you people NUTS? As an ASU alumni, I am embarressed and disappointed. By the very fact he has become the first black president, it is an accomplishment. Is this the same mentality that kept Martin Luther King Day from Arizona and the subsequent Super Bowl? If you agree with ASU’s decision, you have been in the desert sun too long.

  8. This country has had more than 200 years worth of white male presidents. President Obama is the first black president – how is that not honorary enough? And he has had accomplishments…what about all his community work and the recognition he received in college and law school and all he did as a Senator? I too am an ASU alumni and am really embarrassed by this. How is a nobody state school like ASU going to be so disrespectful like that? Well go Obama for being the bigger person…I would have cancelled last minute!

  9. Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” contains a catchy title. It has a taste of bravery mixed confidently. There’s nothing Pollyanna concerning this. I will most likely not support everything he says, but he’s our president, and for me, he inspires trust. That may do more for a region than any amount of backroom deals. Hope gives us energy, and energy sustains us through trying times. Boy, we’ve had them. I’m from West Texas, and I did not vote for Bush. When McCain ran against Obama, I used to be a citizen of Arizona, but I gave audacious hope a chance. The fight for progress and laying the foundations of prosperity isn’t over. I’ve seen the quips of those who don’t think Obama is capable of it. But step back a moment. Would anyone have all of us fail simply to tarnish the star of an incumbent for whom they did not vote? Keeping our priorities straight, let’s work together with our president and build our future.

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