With the nomination period for the 2024 honorary degree recipients now open, members of the Dartmouth community are encouraged to share their thoughts about who should receive the doctoral degrees at Commencement next June.
Active participation in the nomination process contributes to the enrichment of the Commencement ceremony and the enduring legacy of the graduating class, President Sian Leah Beilock says in recent emails to the Class of 2024, faculty, and staff. Similar messages will be sent to students at the professional and graduate schools later this week.
"This is your chance to nominate extraordinary individuals whose contributions to society within their respective domains serve as a profound source of inspiration to you and your classmates and whose values align with the principles of innovation and impact held in high regard within our Dartmouth community," President Beilock says in the email to students.
The emails are part of an effort to boost engagement with the nomination process that also includes in-person outreach and a social media campaign.
Nominations may be submitted online through Oct. 9. The recipients will be announced in late spring.
'Who would be amazing to see on that stage?'
Earlier this month, Beilock met with the Senior Class Council and other members of the Class of 2024 to hear their thoughts about prospective nominees.
She highlighted the significance of the honorands, telling the more than 20 students gathered in One Wheelock, "the honorary degrees are for you, to celebrate what you've done."
Then, she asked the group how they would describe the Class of 2024, and "who would be amazing to see on that stage?"
Several students noted the extraordinary challenges they have weathered together, including the pandemic and the loss of several classmates, and how those experiences shaped their collective identity. Their class, they said, is resilient, intellectually curious, and willing to stand up to authority; they're young changemakers and advocates for mental well-being.
As for who should be honored at Commencement, groundbreaking athletes, public servants, Black women in the arts, a pioneering scientist, a video blogger, and activists in such fields as conservation and mental health were all top of mind.
Beilock said knowing more about the Class of 2024 will be helpful as she works with the Council on Honorary Degrees and the Board of Trustees to finalize the selections. As in previous years, the senior class president, advisory-only to the Council, is invited to participate in the discussion of the nominees.
After the meeting, Student Body Vice President Kiara Ortiz '24 said that given the challenges the class has faced, the nomination process holds special significance.
"When we talk about honorary degrees and we talk about honoring someone for the Class of 2024, we've had a very special history," Ortiz said. "It's very important for us to feel like we are connected to those honorary members as well."
The honorary degrees
The honorary degrees are awarded to the Commencement speaker and five other individuals representing arts and humanities, the sciences, business and industry, or public service who have made outstanding contributions to their respective fields or to society as a whole.
Past recipients include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, author Margaret Atwood, former president George H.W. Bush, astronaut Mae Jemison, actor Mindy Kaling '01, tennis great Billie Jean King, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.