Harvard President Bacow Receives Honorary Degree at Yale Commencement


Just over a week before Harvard’s own Commencement exercises take place in the Yard, Yale University granted Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow an honorary Doctor of Social Science degree Monday.

Yale University President Peter Salovey awarded Bacow and ten other recipients with honorary degrees at its commencement ceremony Monday.

Bacow is not the first Harvard President to receive an honorary degree from Yale — it is a long-standing tradition for the two institutions’ presidents to bestow upon each other these degrees shortly after they assume their role. Former University President Drew G. Faust received a Doctor of Humanities degree in 2008, Lawrence H. Summers accepted an honorary Doctor of Social Science degree in 2002, and Derek C. Bok received a Doctor of Laws degree in 1971.

Harvard awarded Salovey an honorary degree in 2015.


Bacow alluded to the tradition in a statement Monday.

“I recognize that the honorary degree I received from Yale today was far more an honor bestowed upon Harvard than it was upon me personally,” Bacow said. “Our two institutions have much in common beyond a friendly rivalry.”

“We are each committed to the search for truth, scholarly excellence, and a commitment to expanding opportunity for all. I truly enjoyed being part of the Yale commencement festivities," he added.

Among Monday’s honorary recipients are former Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, and award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who spoke last year at Harvard College’s Class Day exercises.

Adichie also spoke this year at the Yale College Class Day exercises. Harvard invited Al Gore ’69 to address undergraduates at this year’s College Class Day, which will take place on May 29. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will serve as the Commencement speaker for all Harvard class of 2019 graduates on May 30.

Past honorary degree recipients at Harvard have included Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg ’06, and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

The Yale Corporation has awarded honorary degrees since 1702 and they are the highest honors the university awards.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.