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Higher education institutions jointly offering honorary degree to President Zelenskyy  

Higher education institutions jointly offering honorary degree to President Zelenskyy  

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At least 15 colleges and universities, including some in New York, intend to jointly offer honorary degrees this spring to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the Ukraine and in honor of the Ukrainian people.  

Mark Zupan

Each of our institutions have begun the processes required to review, and ultimately confer, the proposed honorary degree. 

Mark Zupan, president of Alfred University, said he does not know of a prior example of honorary degrees being jointly offered by higher education institutions in North America. The academic leaders expect proclamations will be read at their respective commencement ceremonies and a copy would then be sent to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.  

The group of educational leaders believe that the initiative is warranted based on: 

  • What President Zelenskyy has done to motivate the collective courage of his own citizens and the broader world in defense of freedom and democracy; 
  • The unprovoked aggression on Ukraine set in motion by the autocratic leader of Russia;  
  • The significance of the threats to civil liberties and the well-being of individuals on account of the Russian Aggression to the citizens of Ukraine, Russia and the broader world, and  
  • The critical responsibility that our colleges/universities bear in promoting tenants of a liberal society such as the unalienable rights of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Zupan encouraged other higher education presidents to reach out if they would like to be included.  

“We also ask them to assist with putting their shoulders to the wheel in other worthwhile ways such as educating their campus communities as to what is at stake in Ukraine, facilitating efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens and offering scholarship support for Ukrainians interested in pursuing their higher education studies,” he said.  

David Munson, president of Rochester Institute of Technology, said Zelenskyy is fighting more than a war.  

“He’s fighting for human values,” Munson said. “It’s beyond just democracy, it’s about freedom and the right of humans to make their own decisions.”  

In addition to Zupan and Munson, the following college leaders have signed on to participate: Leon Botstein president of Bard College; Michael Brophy, president of Hilbert College; Jeff Docking, president of Adrian College, Zev Eleff, president of Gratz College; Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University; John Hurley, president of Canisius College; Joyce Jacobsen, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Linda LeMura, president of Le Moyne College; John Loyack, president of Alvernia University; Scott Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University; Jonathan Peri, president of Manor College; Amy Storey, president of Keuka College, and Frederick Whitt, president of Lenoir-Rhyne University.  

“Keuka College’s mission is ‘to create exemplary citizens and leaders to serve the nation and the world’ and I can think of no greater example of a leader serving his nation and the world than Volodymyr Zelenskyy,” said Keuka’s Storey. “The Ukrainian president’s courage and resolve in defending not only his nation but the universal ideals of freedom and democracy is an example of true leadership.” 

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