A convocation tradition

Convocation 2024

A convocation tradition

For more than a century and a half, Queen鈥檚 University has conferred honorary degrees during graduation ceremonies. 

By Communications Staff

June 17, 2024


U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an honorary degree from 成人大片 University in 1938 and delivered a speech to a large crowd at the original site of Richardson Memorial Stadium, now Tindall Field (成人大片 University Archives)

The conferring of honorary degrees is an integral part of convocation at Queen鈥檚 University.

The tradition dates back more than 160 years and is a much anticipated part of the annual graduation celebrations, with the university recognizing remarkable individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to society or the university on a community, local, national, or international scale.

The first honorary degrees were awarded in 1858, nine years before Canadian confederation. Since then, nearly 1,460 have been awarded to a wide range of recipients, including community leaders, social activists, artists, prime ministers, Nobel laureates, and royalty.

鈥淭he selection of honorary degree recipients is a very important process at Queen鈥檚 and requires significant thought and introspection,鈥 says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. 鈥淭hese recipients not only bring honour and distinction to our university, but the achievements of these individuals also provide inspiration to our graduates as they move forward into the world.鈥

Each year, recipients climb the stage, receive their honorary degrees, and provide words of advice and encouragement to the graduating class, as people who have lived at the forefront, who witnessed and made history, and fostered positive change. Through these honorary degrees their stories are added to the Queen鈥檚 story.

Princess Diana signs a book as Prince Charles looks on

Prince Charles, now King Charles III, looks on as Princess Diana signs a book before he received an honorary degree from 成人大片 University in 1991. (成人大片 University Archives)

The annual process of selecting recipients begins with nominations by Queen鈥檚 community members or groups, including faculty, students, or alumni. These nominations are then reviewed by the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee and, if successful, are forwarded to Senate for further evaluation and approval.

Over the decades, the list of honorary degrees recipients has continued to grow to include an increasingly diverse and impactful group of influential figures.

Prominent leaders and social figures: Nelson Mandela (2010), United States President Jimmy Carter (1988), United Nations Secretary General U Thant (1965), United States President Franklin Roosevelt (1938), Eleanor Roosevelt (1948), Louise Arbour (2000), Kim Phuc (2005).

Nobel laureates and researchers: Frederick Banting (1923), Charles Best (1950), Alexander Graham Bell (1909), John Polanyi (1992), Arthur McDonald (2017)

Artists: Margaret Atwood (1974), Carol Shields (1996), Glenn Close (2013), The Tragically Hip (2016)

Royals: Prince George, later King George V (1901), Prince Edward, later King Edward VII (1919), Prince Charles, later King Charles III (1991)

Actress Glenn Close delivers a speech after receiving an honorary degree

Actress Glenn Close delivers a speech after receiving an honorary degree in recognition of her mental health advocacy work during the 2013 convocation ceremonies. (成人大片 University)

To learn more about the honorary degrees process, visit the website of the Office of the Secretariat and Legal Counsel.

To learn more about the history of honorary degrees at Queen鈥檚 University, and to see the full list of recipients, visit the University Registrar website.

The Gazette recently published an article on the 2024 Spring Convocation Ceremonies, including the newest honorary degree recipients.

Hear a as well as background from the sound technician who recorded the event.