ALFRED, N.Y. — At least 17 colleges and universities in several states will jointly offer honorary degrees to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their commencement ceremonies this spring.
Alfred University President Mark Zupan said the idea grew from his request to have Zelenskyy speak virtually to a combination of graduating classes.
When an official at the Ukrainian embassy declined the western New York university's request, the institutions agreed to award honorary degrees in absentia to honor Zelenskyy's leadership in the Russia-Ukraine war.
“The gesture was motivated by the inspiring example provided by President Zelenskyy to his people and the broader world in defense of freedom and democracy,” Zupan said in a news release Friday.
Several additional campuses in upstate New York, which has a significant population with ties to Ukraine, have committed to the idea. They are being joined by institutions in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The schools in Virginia are Shenandoah University and Virginia Wesleyan University.
Others are expected to join in, Alfred University said.
“Given the role colleges and universities play in promoting the rights of individuals and a liberal society, adding our voice in recognition of and support for the Ukrainian cause is a meaningful way that we can put our shoulders to the wheel,” Zupan said.