Honorary Degrees & Awards

2015 Honorees

2015 Honorary Degrees

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Ansara ’82, renowned children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle, contemporary artist and educator Sonya Clark ’89, economist Alice Rivlin, computational geneticist Pardis Sabeti and attorney and activist Paul Smith ’76 will all receive honorary degrees from Amherst College during its 194th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 24, at 10 a.m. on the school’s main quad. Amherst College President Biddy Martin will deliver the address during the ceremony, and the honorees will all speak to the approximately 477 members of Amherst’s Class of 2015, their families and friends, and the College and Western Massachusetts communities in a series of conversations that are free and open to the public on Saturday, May 23. Read more in Amherst’s news release.

About Amherst’s Honorary Degrees

Amherst College awards a small number of honorary doctoral degrees each year at Commencement. Nominations for honorary degrees are received throughout the year from the Amherst College community and are reviewed by an expanded sub-committee of the Board of Trustees. The nominations cover a wide range of professions and always include some alumni. The trustees vote on the honorary degrees which are usually presented at the Commencement Exercises. Past degrees have included Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Humane Letters, Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Literature, Doctor of Music and Doctor of Science. To nominate a person for an honorary degree, please complete the nomination form.

Past Recipients

See lists of honorary degree recipients since 1950:

Medal for Eminent Service

The medal is awarded by the Board of Trustees and was established in 1934 as a means of recognizing exceptional service to the college for a great period of time, often in a variety of areas. 

Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards

In 1997, Amherst College instituted the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards program to honor some of this country's outstanding high school teachers and to show its appreciation for the profession of teaching. Each year at Commencement, Amherst College presents the awards to three outstanding secondary school teachers who challenged, inspired and moved members of the graduating class. The recipients are chosen by a committee of seniors, faculty and staff from nominations submitted by graduating seniors and are brought to Amherst as guests of the college.

The awards are named for Zephaniah Swift Moore, the first president of the college, and his wife Phebe.