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Honorary degrees

May 16th, 2009

The Chapel at Union Theological College, Belfast

Last night I received an honorary degree. The Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland bestowed on me the degree Doctor of Divinity, iure dignitatis. I was very honoured. It is normal for the PTFI to give this degree to the Moderator Designate, but that does not take the shine off the honour so bestowed on me nor my sense of gratitude. Thank you, PTFI, for giving me what I did not earn. It was truly an act of grace.

Some may argue that honorary degrees are somewhat devalued these days and are given for rather trivial reasons. This year my alma mater, the University of Ulster, is giving honorary degrees to, among others, Clare Short, for services to international development, to Orla Guerin, for services to journalism, to William Wright for services to manufacturing, and to Paul Brady for services to traditional music and songwriting. None of those are trivial reasons and all are worthy of recognition.

But some universities are just not impressed enough to give an honorary degree in spite of the achievements of potential candidates. Witness this response from Arizona State University to the President of the United States. Thankfully, PTFI were not quite so hard to impress as ASU.

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