Commencement Awards Frequently Asked Questions

What are Honorary Degrees and Granite State Awards?

Honorary Degrees are awarded to individuals who meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Persons of national and/or international importance whose contributions have enhanced society.
  • Persons who have brought significant enrichment or benefit to groups.
  • Nominees may include (but are not limited to) alumni, university benefactors, and citizens of the State of New Hampshire.

Granite State Awards are awarded to citizens, agencies, corporations, and foundations of the State of New Hampshire whose achievements and/or extraordinary service in their own spheres have made significant contributions to the State.

How are Commencement Speakers chosen?

Commencement Speakers are chosen based on their ability to inspire, motivate, and provide enlightenment to graduates by sharing experiences that elicit curiosity, instill knowledge, educate, and offer wisdom to students as they enter the next phase of their lives. Speakers also must meet the criteria for receiving an Honorary Degree (see above). UNH does not pay a speaking fee for Commencement.

How do I nominate a speaker, degree or award recipient?

Nominations can be submitted online.

Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university are invited to submit nominations for potential commencement speakers, Honorary Degree, and Granite State Award recipients to the college-based committees for review. The idea for the best speakers typically come from within the University community or benefactors who have an existing relationship or contact with suggested speakers.

Commencement is the University's signature academic event. Choosing an appropriate commencement speaker is a collaborative process that requires careful consideration. Providing detailed information will ensure your nominee is given full consideration by the Honorary Degrees and Granite State Awards Committee and help distinguish him or her from the large pool of eligible candidates.

The committees will review the nominations and provide a list of recommended nominees to the President and Board of Trustees for approval.

Are there any nomination restrictions?

An individual may not nominate him or herself. Members of the Board of Trustees and members of the faculty and staff of the University System institutions should not, during their term of service or employment, be eligible for conferral of Honorary Degrees or Granite State Awards. Barring unusual and compelling circumstances, a reasonable interim (generally a period of not less than two years) should be allowed between retirement from service or employment and nomination of such individuals for this type of recognition.

An Honorary Degree or a Granite State Award cannot be offered to a previous recipient unless there is substantial evidence of significant and distinct additional merit or service that warrants eligibility for a second nomination. See the list of previous winners.

No honorary degree or award shall be approved or conferred for partisan political purposes.

Are there any special circumstances for honors at Commencement?

Each Governor of the State of New Hampshire shall be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree at some appropriate occasion during his or her first term in office.