October 10, 2011

Nominations sought for honorary degrees, awards

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is soliciting nominations for honorary degrees and distinguished service awards that will be presented during May 2012 commencement ceremonies.

The SIU Carbondale Honorary Degree and Service Award Committee is accepting nominations in both categories.  Honorary degrees are “reserved for outstanding scholarly contributors and for persons of considerable renown in any field of activity,” according to committee operating papers.  If the honorary degree is for anything other than scholarly contribution, the award should be for recipients “who have uniquely contributed to human well being or whose accomplishments have resulted in marked benefit to society.”

The University’s Distinguished Service Award is reserved for people who “contributed importantly to Southern Illinois, to the state, and/or to the University.”  Current and former University employees are eligible except in the year they retire.

Nominations for both honorary degrees and distinguished service awards are due no later than Monday, Oct. 24.  The 17-member committee, chaired by Dale H. Vitt, distinguished professor and chair in the Department of Plant Biology, will make its recommendations to the chancellor no later than Nov. 15.  The SIU Board of Trustees will consider the nominations at its February 2012 meeting.

Nomination letters should include a two- to three-page resume, curriculum vita, or biographical sketch that includes a description of the nominee’s “unique contributions.”  The committee may then also request additional materials to assist in its consideration.  Nominators should consult with Vitt “to ensure that consistent standards of confidentiality and propriety are followed.”

Strict confidence about the nomination, including with the nominee, must be maintained until completion of the review and approval process. 

Since 1950, the University has awarded 114 honorary degrees to individuals in a variety of fields, including science, government, social work, the law, arts, and entertainment.

Previous award recipients include former governors William G. Stratton and Otto Kerner; former SIUC professor R. Buckminster Fuller; actor and humanitarian Eddie Albert; co-founder and CEO of C-SPAN Brian P. Lamb; former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon; Jeanne Hurley Simon; comedian, author, activist and former SIUC cross country and track standout Dick Gregory; Judge Abner J. Mikva; and Minnijean Brown Trickey, a former SIUC student, and member of the "Little Rock Nine,” who with eight other African-American students attempted to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in the late 1950s.

Since 1975, the University has awarded 52 Distinguished Service Awards.  Previous recipients include SIU School of Law founder Hiram H. Lesar; trailblazing journalist and philanthropist Virginia Marmaduke; Marianne Webb, Distinguished University Organist and visiting professor of music; and longtime University supporter Barbara Lesar.

Direct inquires to Vitt at 618/453-3210 or by email at dvitt@plant.siu.edu. Send nominations to “Chair of the Committee,” Dale H. Vitt, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Plant Biology, Life Sciences II, Room D420, Mailcode 6509, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901.