Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Honorary Degrees and their merits.

Although the question of honourary degrees is not one that I am ever likely to have to deal with personally, it is one that has led to a great deal of disagreement. Should one use such a degree? How should they be viewed? Reading one of my Christmas presents, the Life of Philip Schaff, the Church historian, I came across an amusing story on honourary degrees:

"The degree of Doctor of Laws [LL.D.] was conferred upon [Dr. Schaff} at amherst college. The following conversation indicates no lack of appreciation of the honor. 'I attended the commencement exercises at Yales and the alumni dinner (June 29, 1876). General Sherman and Yung Wing were made LL.D.s. I told General Sherman that this meant the inauguration of the millennial reign of peace. I was also informed that I had been made LL.D., to-day, by Amherst College. I asked Dr. Woolsey, who sat beside me, what a man who knows nothing about laws was to do under such circumstances? He smiled and said I should not take it hard. He had been made LL.D. by Dartmouth and D.D. by Harvard University, and took them both complacently. Dartmouth knew nothing about law and Harvard nothing about theology." David Schaff: The Life of Philip Schaff (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1897) Pp.295-6

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