Queen's Encyclopedia

Queen's Encyclopedia
Queen's Encyclopedia

Honorary Degrees

Queen's honours national and international luminaries and people who have played an exceptional role in the university's development with five different kinds of honorary degree.

These are:

  • Doctorate of Laws (LLD), now the most frequently awarded
  • Doctorate of Science (DSc), awarded to some but not all of the distinguished scientists who receive honorary degrees, depending on their preference
  • Doctorate of Divinity (DD), officially conferred by the university but presented at the separate spring convocations of the affiliated, but officially distinct, theological college
  • The rarely awarded Honorary Master of Arts (MA Hon) and Master of Science (MSc Hon)degrees, given to members of Queen's non-academic staff who have made exceptional contributions to the University

The first three degrees - the LLD, DSC, and DD - are always honorary; none of these degrees are ever conferred at Queen's "by examination."

The Doctorate of Divinity is the oldest of the five. Queen's granted its first honorary degrees - Doctorate of Divinity degrees - in 1858 to two prominent Presbyterian clergymen: the Rev James C. Muir and the Rev Alexander MacGillivray.

A more famous name was called when Queen's awarded its first two Doctorate of Laws degrees in 1863: these went to Sir John A. Macdonald and the Rev Michael Willis.

The Doctorate of Science degree was first awarded more recently, in 1951, to William Percy Dobson, a prominent Ontario Hydro researcher.

The first Honorary Master of Science degree was awarded in 1953 to staff member Ronald Bradfield, and the first Honorary Master of Arts degree in 1970 to staff member Kathleen Healey.

Before that, in 1897, there was another notable first, this time a national one: Queen's became the first university in Canada to grant an honorary degree to a woman. She was the Countess of Aberdeen, founding President of the National Council of Women, founder of the Victorian Order of Nurses, and wife of Governor General the Earl of Aberdeen. She was granted a Doctorate of Laws.

Canadian Governors General and Prime Ministers have been favourite candidates for Queen's honorary degrees. Other prominent national and international figures so honoured have been:

  • Prince George, later George V (1901)
  • Andrew Carnegie (1906)
  • Alexander Graham Bell (1909)
  • Prince Edward, later Edward VII (1919)
  • Stephen Leacock (1919)
  • President Franklin Roosevelt (1938)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (1948)
  • Robertson Davies (1962)
  • Northrop Frye (1962)
  • United Nations Secretary General U Thant (1965)
  • John Kenneth Galbraith (1967)
  • Lorne Greene (1971)
  • Tommy Douglas (1972)
  • Margaret Atwood (1974)
  • Oscar Peterson (1976)
  • Prince Charles (1991)
  • Donald Sutherland (1995)
  • Carol Shields (1996)
  • The Right Honourable Hal Jackman (1997)
  • Madam Justice Louise Arbour (1999)
  • Atom Egoyan (2000)

The Senate committee on Honorary Degrees considers all nominations for honorary degrees, recommends a list of recipients to the Senate and also advises the Senate on general policies relating to honorary degrees.

Learn more about honorary degrees and see a full list of recipients...