86. Honorary Degrees


At the commencement of 1915, scientist Thomas Edison (front left) and George Washington Goethals (front right), chief engineer of the Panama Canal, walked with Dean of the Graduate School Andrew West ’1874 (front center) on their way to receiving honorary degrees from Princeton.  The University has awarded notable individuals with honorary degrees since its first commencement in 1748, when New Jersey Governor Jonathan Belcher received this distinction.  Since 1895, the University has only granted degrees to those recipients who attend the ceremony, creating a tradition of impressive personages being present at each Princeton convocation.  Another tradition associated with the conferral of Princeton honorary degrees is the total secrecy of their identities until Commencement Day.

  • To learn more about Jonathan Belcher, see quotation #35 and Café Vivian picture #19 and 33.

  • To learn more about recipients of Princeton honorary degrees, see quotation #2, 3, 8, 12, 25, and 35, and Café Vivian picture #14, 21, and 65.

  • To learn more about Andrew West, see Café Vivian picture #105.

  • To learn more about the history of Princeton commencement, see quotation #2, and Café Vivian picture #16 and 21.

  • To learn more about Princeton traditions, see icon #1, 9, 10, and 11, and Café Vivian picture #9, 12, 23, 24, 97, 112, 116, and 132.