Honorary Degree and Commencement Speaker Selection Process

To the Williams Community,

Following conversations last spring about the process for selecting commencement speakers and other honorary degree recipients, those of us signing this letter and others have worked together to amend the process to broaden significantly the involvement of students.

The change centers on the formation of an Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee composed of the following:

  • One member of the Board of Trustees (co-chair)
  • The College Marshal (co-chair)
  • The College Chaplain
  • Three additional faculty (recommended by the Faculty Steering Committee)
  • Ten students (three elected sophomores, juniors, and seniors, along with College Council’s Vice President for Community and Diversity, who sits on both College Council and the Minority Coalition)
  • As staffing support, the Vice President for Public Affairs.

Faculty and students already appointed and elected to the Committee on Degrees will continue in this new configuration. Elections will be held to flesh out the other student members (one senior, one junior, and three sophomores). Going forward, sophomores will serve for three years, to deepen their engagement and provide continuity.

By college law, the authority to grant honorary degree resides solely with the board. The trustee co-chair of this committee will be the one to formally bring nominations to the board for its consideration. She or he will keep the committee informed of progress in the recruitment of potential commencement speakers, which often depends on contacts that trustees have with them.

The committee will also consider ways to broaden the involvement of the entire campus community in the generating of suggestions for candidates.

College Council will soon email all sophomores, juniors, and seniors to solicit self-nominations for the election to take place later this month.

We’re pleased with this new arrangement, which we expect to be an effective, efficient, and more inclusive way to do this work.


Adam Falk, President

Jay Thoman, College Marshal

Emily Dzieciatko, College Council Co-President

Erica Moszkowski, College Council Co-President

Fiona Dang, Minority Coalition Co-President

Karen He, Minority Coalition Co-President