Keene State College is seeking nominations for candidates to receive an honorary degree at the commencement ceremony for the class of 2012.
Anyone who is part of the Keene State College community can nominate a person who they feel has made serious contributions to their community, state, country, or world.
Keene State College began giving honorary degrees in 1967. There have been 69 recipients since then; at least one has been given out at each year’s commencement with the exception of 1985.
In 1967, the first recipients were Amos Noyes Blandin Jr., a justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1947 to 1966 and Elizabeth Yates McGreal, a famous author who won a Newbery Medal for her book “Amos Fortune, Free Man.”
The achievements of Keene State College honorary degree recipients have not become any less meritorious.
Stephen Taylor, the recipient in 2011, was the founding executive director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, which organizes free humanities programs across the state and awards grants to nonprofit organizations in New Hampshire.
Carol Geary Schneider, one of the recipients in 2010, is the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization with over 1,250 member institutions with the overall goal of promoting excellence in an undergraduate liberal education.
Overall, it is a very serious accolade.
And now, the process in determining who gets it has changed a little.
Before this year, the president’s cabinet, consisting of roughly five to 10 people, would decide who should receive the honorary degree based on nominations. Anyone in the Keene State College community was allowed to nominate a person for an honorary degree; students, faculty, alumni, etc.
President Giles-Gee, in an effort to streamline the process and take some of the burden off the already extremely busy president’s cabinet, has instituted a new “nomination committee,” which is chaired by the Special Assistant to the President, Kathryn Dodge.
The committee has been given the task of soliciting and refining the opinions of the Keene State College community on nominations for the honorary degree. They will pass on a refined list of nominations to the president’s cabinet for review, essentially doing the very important, but very time consuming first step, of distilling the ethos of the college into a list of potential nominees.
The president and her cabinet will pick a final candidate with the help of her cabinet, and send the decision off to the USNH Programs and Services Committee for final approval.
The committee consists of the following nine people: the previous three recipients of the Distinguished Teacher Award, the previous three recipients of the Faculty Distinction in Research and Scholarship Award, one staff member from both Finance and Planning and Student Affairs and Advancement, one alumnus, and one student.
The nomination committee has been working to incorporate the Keene State College community in the 2012 honorary degree nominations since October. They will not be accepting any more nominations past March 1.
“It’s a new deal this year,” Dodge said. “We have an entire process in place.”
The new nomination committee has not only streamlined the process, but it has seemingly made the process more democratic.
Not that it was undemocratic before; the president’s cabinet has always asked for nominations from anyone in the Keene State College community.
However, the committee consists of members of the Keene State College community who are undoubtedly ensconced in the nitty-gritty of student opinion in a very consistent way; professors, staff members, and one student.
Essentially, there are more, and more direct, feelers out there trying to get opinions.
However, the increase in opinions can be a delicate operation because with more ideas of who to pick may come a longer list of candidates for the nomination committee to work through.
Jake Piecuch, the sole student representative for the nomination committee, insists that members of the KSC community refrain from the temptations of supporting the nomination of a pop culture figure like Tom Brady or Lady Gaga and help nominate a candidate who has been a force for change and selflessness.
“[We are looking for] someone who has done a lot for New Hampshire, someone who has done a lot for Keene State and represents us better as a community.”
Despite the honorary degree program’s historical emphasis on figures with a benevolent background, most of the recipients have still been very well known, and not just in academia.
“A good half are national figures,” Dodge said.
“You have to be someone who makes a great impact,” Amy Proctor, the senior administrative assistant to the President, said.
Sandra Postel, the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree in 2005, is just one of the many national figures Dodge is referring to.
Postel founded the Global Water Policy Project, one of the world’s most well known and respected organizations dealing with fresh water issues. She has written several books; one of her books, “Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity,” has been translated into eight languages. She has also been featured as an expert on fresh water issues on several major news networks.
“The honorary Doctor of Science degree from Keene State meant a great deal to me,” Postel said. “It was an affirmation that the work on global fresh water issues to which I’ve devoted my professional life has made a difference.”
Dylan Morrill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.