University Won't Award Obama Degree

Arizona State University will not award President Barack Obama an honorary degree when he speaks at commencement on May 13.

The university decided against awarding Obama the degree because it is customarily awarded for “lifetime achievement,” ASU spokeswoman Sharon Keeler told POLITICO.

“It’s normally awarded to someone who has been in their field for some time,” she said. “Considering that the president is at the beginning of his presidency, his body of work is just beginning.”

Obama was invited by the university to be its commencement speaker and accepted the invitation in March. But a separate six-member committee that determines the awarding of honorary degrees did not nominate him to receive such a degree.

Keeler said that while one committee invites speakers, a separate committee votes on who will receive an honorary degree. Typically, the committee that awards honorary degrees acts first, followed by the committee that invites the recipient. But in Obama’s case, he was invited without the honorary degree committee selecting him.

The panel has not addressed whether to award Obama an honorary degree, and may not vote on the matter before the president speaks at ASU.

“Our process is different,” Keeler said. “He has to go through the nominating committee, and I don’t know if there is sufficient time for that to happen.”

Obama will receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame when he delivers the university’s commencement speech May 17, as is customary for all the school’s commencement speakers.

ASU does not have plans to award any more honorary degrees during the course of the academic year, though Keeler said the school could potentially to do so.

Among the school’s recent honorary degree recipients are Chinese vice minister of education Wu Qidi and J. Craig Venter, a scientist credited with developing high-volume genome sequencing.

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