An honorary degree is considered to be the University's highest honour, and the granting of such a degree is one of the University's major public actions. The tradition of granting honorary degrees at the University of Alberta dates back to the first Convocation in 1908. Such degrees, it is said, honour both the recipient and the spirit of the University of Alberta. By its choice, the University proclaims the recipient worthy to be admitted to the University on the basis of achievement for the common good. In conferring the degree, the University also makes a public statement about its own fundamental values.
Honorary degrees, conferred honoris causa, meaning "for the sake of honour", are generally awarded to recognize extraordinary intellectual or artistic achievement; to honour service to the University, and to society and humanity at large; and to recognize men and women whose standard of excellence is exemplary to students and to society.
At the University of Alberta, honorary degrees are generally not to any of the following: current faculty or staff; current members of the Board of Governors and the Senate; and current holders of political office in Canada.
The University of Alberta Senate's Honorary Degrees Committee chooses the honorees and is composed of a broad representation of segments of the community, including a mix of the following: the President; representatives from the academic community, including Deans and/or Professors; and representatives from the Support Staff, the Alumni Association, the Students' Union, the Graduate Students' Association, and the community.
Of the over 240 individuals to have been awarded honorary degrees at the University of Alberta, transcripts of a select number of convocation addresses are available for you to read.