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.