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Honorary Degrees: Home

Written by Jaime Bradley and Heather Dent

Honorary Degrees

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an Honorary Degree is "conferred by a university or college as a recognition of distinction or a tribute of honour." Berea College has a long and distinguished history of conferring honorary degrees based on clear, objective, scholarship-centered, service-oriented and mission-based selection criteria. In the mid-1990s, official nomination and awarding criteria was adopted by the Faculty.

Berea College began awarding honorary degrees in 1881*. Since then, the College has granted 247 honorary degrees*: 201 to men, 46 to women (as of 2011, see listings below). The College does not grant an honorary degree every year.

List of Honorary Degree Recipients


Note: Many of the early A.M. and M.S. degrees awarded prior to 1914 to Berea alumni were actually "earned" degrees (between 1881 and 1914, Berea College informally granted advanced degrees at the Masters level). Although informal and not accredited, these degrees were in some cases recognizing actual scholarship or service performed, not purely honorary. Some may have been awarded in order to allow the honoree to receive an honorary doctorate at a time in the future (this appears with the granting of honorary doctorates to pre-1904 African-American and white alumni, as well as early Berea teachers - perhaps a Berea form of ad eundem degrees). These degrees, however, were not included on early historical lists of honorary degrees and are thus marked by an asterisk.* According to those early, contemporary lists, the first true honorary degree was awarded in 1893.

Name of Honoree Berea Degree Held and Year; other
connections with Berea College
  Type of Honorary Degree
 
1881
Rogers, W.M.N.* A.B. 1877   A.M.
 
1882 - None Awarded
 
1883
Fairchild, Arthur B.* A.B. 1874   A.M.
Jackson, John Henry* A.B. 1874   A.M.
Lester, Jennie E.* A.B. 1879   A.M.
Rice, John Hale Julian* A.B. 1879   A.M.
 
1884-1886 - None Awarded
 
1887
Dodge, Prescott Daniel* A.B. 1879   A.M.
 
1888 - None Awarded
 
1889
Baker, Wm. H.* A.B. 1885   A.M.
Barton, Wm. E.* B.S. 1885   M.S.
 
1890
McCollum, James L.* A.B. 1883   A.M.
 
1891
Hathaway James S.* A.B. 1884   A.M.
McCollum, Hugh Burritt* A.B. 1883   A.M.
 
1892 - None Awarded
 
1893
Barton, Wm. E. B.S. 1885; M.S. 1889   A.M.
 
1894
Gilbert, Miss Kate N/A; Teacher 1870-1898   A.M.
Todd, Rev. A. E. (Alvin Ethelstan) N/A; Professor, Librarian, VP, 1891-1898   A.M.
 
1895
Barton, Wm. E. B.S. 1885; M.S. 1889; A.M. 1893   D.D.
Mayo, Rev. A. D. N/A; Lecturer 1893-1907   LL.D.
 
1896
Bate, John W.* A.B. 1881   A.M.
 
1897
Davenport, Rev. James B. N/A   A.M.
Weld, Rev. Charles Richmond N/A   LL.D.
Burleigh, Angus A.* A.B. 1875   A.M.
Bond, James* B.S. 1892   M.S.
Dodge, Ernest Green* A.B. 1893   A.M.
Drew, Wm. James* B.S. 1892   M.S.
McCollum, Geo T.* B.S. 1890   M.S.
Rogers, John Raphael* A.B. 1875   A.M.
Rogers, Joseph Morgan* A.B. 1879   A.M.
 
1898
Beardslee, Prof. Clark Smith N/A   D.D.
Greenough, Prof. J. C. N/A   LL.D.
 
1899 - None Awarded
 
1900
Hubbard, Rev. Wm. Henry N/A   D.D.
 
1901
Bond, James B.S. 1892; M.S. 1897   D.D.
Rogers, Rev. J. A. R. N/A; Founder/Trustee, 1858-1906   D.D.
Baker, James Thompson* B.L. 1897   Ph.M.
 
1902
Brodie, Rev. Andrew M. N/A   D.D.
Dinsmore, Prof. John Wirt N/A   A.M.
Hunting, Mrs. Julia Scott N/A   A.M.
Putnam, Mrs. Kate Urner N/A   A.M.
Robinson, Josephine A. (Mrs. E. D. Roe) N/A   A.M.
 
1903
Burnam, Hon. Curtis F. N/A   LL.D.
Van Horn, Rev. Francis J. N/A   D.D.
Lewis, John C.* B.S. 1886   M.S.
 
1904
Williams, Frank L.* A.B. 1889   A.M.
Miller, Fannie B.* A.B. 1888   A.M.
 
1905 - None Awarded
 
1906
Fuller, Rev. Nathan G. N/A   D.D.
Thompson, Rev. A. E. N/A   D.D.
 
1907
Curtis, Theodore H. N/A   A.M.
Marsh, Prof. Miles E. N/A; Professor of   A.M.
Schumaker, Miss Viola N/A   A.M.
Battle, Wallace Aaron* A.B. 1901   A.M.
Smith, Edwin B.* A.B. 1881   A.M.
White, Edward F.* A.B. 1881   A.M.
 
1908
McCollum, Rev. George N/A   D.D.
Willson, Hon. Augustus E. N/A   LL.D
Baker, C. Milton* B.S. 1891   M.S.
Crenshaw, Joshua* A.B. 1892   A.M.
Dodds, Joseph J.* Ph.B. 1894   M.S.
Gould, Chas. W.* A.B. 1897   A.M.
Hill, Noble* Ph.B. 1893   M.S.
Humphrey, Wm. H.* A.B. 1903   A.M.
Lamson, Mary H. (Mrs. Dodge)* B.S. 1887   M.S.
Matheny, Francis Edmund* B.L. 1898; Ph.B. 1900   M.S.
Menzi, Ernest U.* Ph.B. 1893   A.M.
Sayers, Lena P.* B.S. 1890   M.S.
Todson, Clara Leona* B.L. 1901   M.S.
 
1909
Crabble, John Grant N/A   LL.D.
Jones, Rev. Howard Murray N/A   D.D.
 
1910
McKee, Alice Doty* Ph.B. 1903   M.S.
 
1911
Johnson, Rev. Herbert S. N/A   D.D.
Wilder, Herbert A. N/A   A.M.
 
1912
Raine, Rev. James Watt N/A; Professor, 1906-1944   D.D.
Roberts, Rev. Benson H. N/A   D.D.
 
1913 - None Awarded
 
1914
Dodge, Prescott Daniel A.B. 1879; A.M. 1887   D.D.
Raymond, C. Rexford N/A   D.D.
Lindsley, Chas. Bradley* B.S. 1911   M.S.
 
1915-1916 - None Awarded
 
1917
Lyman, Elmer A. N/A   LL.D.
Candee, George N/A; Trustee 1858-1879   M.A.
Fee, Edwin S. N/A; son of John G. Fee, student 1870-1882   M.A.
 
1918
McKeever, Wm. A. N/A   LL.D.
Rogers, John Raphael A.B. 1875; A.M. 1897   LL.D.
Sewell, Nathaniel Burton N/A   A.M.
Sewell, Mrs. Nathaniel B. N/A   A.M.
 
1919
Bowersox, Miss Katherine S. N/A; Dean of Women, Instructor in Normal
Department, 1907-
  A.M.
Ernberg, Mrs. Anna M. N/A; Director of Fireside Industries, 1911-   A.M.
Mead, George W. N/A   D.D.
Ridgeway, Mrs. Florence N/A; Librarian, 1909-   A.M.
Smith, Anna L. N/A; President's Secretary, 1907-1909; 1911-1914   A.M.
Knight, Charles Spurgeon N/A; Extension, 1912-1914   D.D.
 
1920
Boatright, Virginia Russel N/A; Teacher, 1905-   B.Ped.
Wilson, Warren H. N/A   LL.D.
 
1921-1923 - None Awarded
 
1924
Stockdale, Allen Arther N/A   D.D.
 
1925
Jillson, Willard Rouse> N/A   Sc.D.
 
1926
Campbell, Olive D. N/A   L.H.D.
Karnosh, Louis Joseph N/A   Sc.D.
McCormack, Arthur T. N/A   Sc.D.
 
1927
Alexander, Will Winton N/A   D.D.
White, Edward Franklin N/A   LL.D.
 
1928
Hill, Noble Ph.B. 1893; M.S. 1908   Litt.D.
 
1929
Jones, Thomas Elsa N/A   LL.D.
McClure, James G. K. Jr. N/A   Sc.D.
 
1930
Allen, Florence E. N/A   LL.D.
Southwick, Henry L. N/A   Litt.D.
 
1931
Hutchins, Robert M. N/A; son of William J. Hutchins, Berea's 4th President   LL.D.
>Grenfell, Sir Wilfred T. N/A   LL.D.
 
1932
Battle, Wallace Aaron A.B. 1901; A.M. 1907   Litt.D.
 
1933
Embree, William Dean B.L. 1899   LL.D.
 
1934
Luccock, George N. N/A   D.D.
McVey, Frank L. N/A   LL.D.
Ickes, Harold L. N/A   LL.D.
 
1935 - None Awarded
 
1936
Washburn, Hezekiah N/A   D.D.
 
1937-1940 - None Awarded
 
1941
Goldthwait, Joel E. N/A   Sc.D.
Huntington, Seth R. N/A   D.D.
 
1942-1943 - None Awarded
 
1944
Baird, Jesse B.S. 1915   LL.D.
 
1945
Frost, Eleanor Marsh N/A; wife of Wm. G. Frost, Berea's 3rd President   LL.D.
 
1946 - None Awarded
 
1947
Breckenridge, Mary N/A   LL.D.
 
1948
Cowley, Robert H. N/A; Berea Physician   Sc.D.
Donavon, Herman L. N/A   LL.D.
 
1949
Boggs, Samuel Whittemore B.L. 1909; Assistant to President, 1909-   Sc.D.
 
1950
Danforth, William H. N/A   LL.D.
Hutchins, William J. N/A   LL.D.
Bowersox, Katherine A.M. 1919; Dean of Women, Instructor in
Normal Department, 1907-
  L.H.D.
Welsh, Mary N/A; Dean of Women,   L.H.D.
 
1951
Johnson, W. Monte N/A   D.D.
Seabury, Charles Ward N/A; Donor and namesake of Men's
Gymnasium built in 1927
  LL.D.
 
1952
Cooper Thomas P. N/A   Sc.D.
Phillips, Ralph N/A   Sc.D.
 
1953
Pierrepont, Seth Low N/A   LL.D.
Meese, Alfred H. A.B. 1909   LL.D.
 
1954
Bannerman, Arthur M. N/A   LL.D.
Hoffman, Rolla E. B.S. 1908   Sc.D.
 
1955
Cable, Raymond Millard N/A   Sc.D.
Cho, Chung Whan N/A   LL.D.
Eaton, Allen H. N/A   L.H.D.
Kress, Rush H. N/A   LL.D.
Mays, Benjamin Elijah N/A   D.D.
Tago, Masako Suda N/A   LL.D.
Weatherford, Willis Duke N/A; Trustee, 19   LL.D.
 
1956 - None Awarded
 
1957
Dickey, Frank Graves N/A   LL.D.
Green, Paul Eliot N/A   Litt.D.
Orwig, Preston G. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1958
Cooper, John Sherman N/A   LL.D.
Faust, Clarence Henry N/A   L.H.D.
 
1959
Combs, Louise N/A   L.H.D.
Welch, Frank J. N/A   LL.D.
 
1960
Cooper, Edward B. N/A   Sc.D.
 
1961
Cowan, Thomas B. N/A   D.D.
Peck, Elizabeth S. N/A; Professor of History, 19   Litt.D.
 
1962
Brown, Kenneth I. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1963
Ford, H. Church N/A   LL.D.
Ethridge, Mark N/A   L.H.D.
 
1964
Combs, Bert Thomas N/A   L.H.D.
 
1965
Rhind, Flora McDonald N/A   LL.D.
 
1966
Parks, William Robert N/A   LL.D.
Stuart, Jesse N/A   Litt.D.
 
1967
Hutchins, Louise N/A; Doctor, Mountain Material Health League   Sc.D.
Hutchins, Francis S. N/A; 5th President of Berea College   L.H.D.
 
1968
Bishop, Charles Edwin N/A   LL.D.
Turpin, James N/A   Sc.D.
Wood, Thomas Jackson N/A   LL.D.
 
1969
Brooks, Chandler McCluskey N/A   Sc.D.
Smith, Louis N/A; Dean of the College, 1944-1969   LL.D.
Taylor, Joseph T. N/A   LL.D.
 
1970
Anderson, Walter E. N/A   D.Mus.
Denbo, Bruce F. N/A   Litt.D.
Martin, Galen A. N/A   LL.D.
 
1971
Caudhill, Harry M. N/A   LL.D.
Ensminger, Douglas N/A   LL.D.
Wesley, Charles H. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1972
Perkins, Carl Dewey N/A; many Berea students benefit from the
federal Perkins Loan program!
  LL.D.
Todd, Russell Irvine N/A   Sc.D.
 
1973
Bontemps, Arna Wendell N/A   Litt.D.
McCracken, Paul Winston N/A   LL.D.
Still, James N/A   Litt.D.
 
1974
Lockwood, Normand N/A   D.Mus.
Muelder, Walter N/A; Professor of Religion and Philosophy,   Litt.D.
 
1975
Allen, Doris T. N/A   Litt.D.
Hamner, Earl N/A   LittD.
 
1976
Bingham, Barry N/A; Trustee   Litt.D.
Turner, Arlin N/A   Litt.D.
 
1977
King, Martin Luther, Sr. N/A   D.D.
Robertson, D. B. N/A   J.D.
Williams, Cratis D. N/A   D.H.L.
 
1978
Albright, Arnold Dewald N/A   L.H.D.
Warren, Robert Penn N/A   L.H.D
 
1979
Musser, Tharon B.A. 1946; Donor and namesake for theatre   L.H.D.
Kreps, Juanita M. B.A. 1942   LL.D.
 
1980
Coles, Robert M. N/A   L.H.D.
Reese, Jack E. N/A   LL.D.
Bomhard, Hans Claus Moritz von N/A   D.Mus.
 
1981
Beiting, Ralph W. N/A   D.D.
Miller, Jim Wayne N/A   Litt. D.
 
1982
Ross, W. Gordon N/A; Professor of Religion   L.H.D.
Spragens, Thomas A. N/A   LL.D.
 
1983
Berry, Wendell N/A   Litt.D.
Duncan, Todd N/A   L.H.D.
Hurst, George Samuel N/A   Sc.D.
 
1984
Weatherford, Anne N/A; wife of W.D. Weatherford, Jr.   L.H.D.
Weatherford, Willis D. Jr. N/A; 6th President of Berea College   L.H.D.
 
1985
Prichard, Edward F. Jr. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1986
Height, Dorothy I. N/A   L.H.D.
Ehle, John Mardsen Jr. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1987
Auxier, John A. N/A   Sc.D.
Cheaney, Henry E. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1988
Baker, Houston A. N/A   Litt.D.
 
1989
Corns, Ray N/A   LL.D.
Franklin, John Hope N/A   L.H.D.
 
1990
Sexton, Robert N/A   L.H.D.
 
1991
Heilbrun, Carolyn G. N/A   Litt.D.
Ritchie, Jean N/A   Doctor of Arts
 
1992
Blake, Robert N/A   L.H.D.
Brown, James Stephen N/A   L.H.D.
 
1993
Cole, Johnetta B. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1994
Tenzin, Gyastov N/A   L.H.D.
Fleming, Juanita W. N/A   Doctor of Public Service
Gould, Stephen Jay N/A   Sc.D.
Kim, Thomas K. B.A. 1952   L.H.D.
 
1995
Stephenson, John B. N/A; 7th President of Berea College   L.H.D.
Stephenson, Jane B. N/A; founder of New Opportunity School in Berea   L.H.D.
 
1996
Egerton, John N/A   L.H.D.
Lamb, Brian N/A   L.H.D.
 
1997
Gray, William H. N/A   L.H.D.
 
1998-2000 - None Awarded
 
2001
Edelman, Marian Wright N/A   L.H.D.
Sanders, Scott Russell N/A   L.H.D.
Sell, Sarah Hamilton Wood N/A   Sc.D.
 
2002
Dees, Morris Seligman N/A   L.H.D.
 
2003
Colvard, Dean Wallace N/A   L.H.D.
Crowe, Charles D. N/A   L.H.D.
Whitehead, John C. N/A   LL.D.
O’Reilly, Mary Rose N/A   L.H.D.
 
2004
Smith, Albert N/A   L.H.D.
Bond, Horace Julian N/A   LL.D.
Wheeler, Billy Edd N/A   L.H.D.
 
2005
Hall, Eula N/A   L.H.D.
Tutu, Desmond N/A   L.H.D.
Russell, Liane B. N/A   Sc.D.
 
2006
Hooks, Benjamin Lawson N/A; grandson of alum Julia Britton Hooks, Cx 1874   LL.D.
Powell, James Lawrence N/A   Sc.D.
 
2007
Fairfax, Jean E. N/A   L.H.D.
Gates, Henry Louis N/A   L.H.D.
Hamilton, Joseph H. N/A   L.H.D.
 
2008
Carson, Ben N/A   L.H.D.
Bright, Stephen N/A   L.H.D.
 
2009
Tatum, Beverly Daniel N/A   L.H.D.
Rosenberg, John N/A   L.H.D.
 
2010
Appiah, Kwame Anthony N/A   L.H.D.
Eck, Diana L. N/A   L.H.D.
Lewis, Helen Matthews N/A; Interim Director of App Center, 1993-1995   L.H.D.
       
2011      
Gurney Norman N/A   L.H.D
Burt Lauderdale N/A   L.H.D
       
2012      
Parker J. Palmer N/A   L.H.D
       
2013      
Peter O'Connor N/A   LL.D
       
2015      
Naomi Judd N/A   Sc.D.
       
2017      
Rep. John Lewis N/A   LL.D.
       
2018      
Dr. Earl Lewis N/A   L.H.D.
       
2019      
George Ella Lyon N/A   L.H.D
     

A Brief History of Honorary Degrees in the United States

The practice of awarding honorary degrees began in 1692 at Harvard University.

Controversy
The practice of awarding honorary degrees has long been a controversial matter. Some attach a great deal of significance to the awarding of honorary degrees. Others see it merely as a minor function of the college or university. Still others go so far as to consider it as a device of exploitation whereby the college or university expects to gain prestige or property through recognizing people whose support might be useful.

The United State’s past concerning the practice of granting honorary degrees has been rather messy. Individuals have asked for honorary degrees and received them without undergoing the proper judicious process of selection. Others have strongly protested the granting of certain awards. Perhaps the most famous example of this occurred in 1833 when the president of Harvard informed John Quincy Adams, a member on the Board of Trustees at Harvard, that Andrew Jackson was to be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws. Upon hearing this John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary, “as an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honors upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and could hardly spell his own name.”

Many sought honorary degrees for their own personal gain. During the pre-Civil War says members of the Protestant clergy were distinctly a predominant group seeking and receiving honorary degrees. A writer in 1857 commented on this saying, “…one of the most prominent objects of their lives must be the gaining by any means, and seemingly from any institution, the dearly coveted Doctor of Divinity.”

Colleges and universities were also guilty of seeking personal gain through the process of awarding honorary degrees. Awarding honorary degrees help educational institutions greatly with publicity. It helps attract new students, raise money, and stimulates reciprocation.
Because of these reasons some colleges and universities are guilty of granting multiple honorary degrees solely to receive more publicity. Some made up creative new titles for honorary degrees. In 1939 a seeing-eye German Shepherd was granted the degree Doctor of Canine Fidelity by a New Jersey institution. Such abuse of the practice of awarding honorary degrees was not to be tolerated within Berea College. Berea constructed an effective set of rules and guidelines to be followed during the selection process in order to avoid any unjust exploitation.