Millard Fillmore

Honoris causa

The institution has awarded honorary degrees since 1827, recognizing the contributions and achievements of graduates, administrators, benefactors, writers, artists, scientists, scholars, members of the clergy and public servants, including three Presidents of the United States.

10. Millard Fillmore L.L.D. 1850, 13th President of the United States

Fillmore accepted his honorary degree just weeks after the death of his predecessor, President Zachary Taylor. On a tour of Europe five years later, Fillmore declined an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford because he "had not the advantage of a classical education" and, as the diploma was issued in Latin, believed that "no man should ... accept a degree he cannot read." (The 1850 honorary degree from Geneva College was inscribed in Latin.)


Eleanor Roosevelt

11. Anna Botsford Comstock L.H.D. '30, First female professor and head of the nature study department at Cornell University; first woman to serve as an HWS Trustee and to receive an honorary degree from the Colleges

Comstock pioneered experimental courses in public schools, broke new ground in the sciences and, in 1923, was voted by the National League of Women Voters as being among the 12 greatest women in the country. She was also instrumental in the founding of William Smith College, guiding William Smith himself in the planning process. Her advice and support was so vital that Smith insisted - even wrote into his will - that three trustees of Hobart College must represent the interests of William Smith College and that one must be a woman. The initial three trustees included Theodore J. Smith, Henry B. Graves and Anna Botsford Comstock, who served on the Board until her death in 1930.

12. Franklin Delano Roosevelt L.L.D. '29, 32nd President of the United States

In 1929, then-New York State Governor Roosevelt called on students in his Phi Beta Kappa oration to take on fully their duties as citizens. The success of government and the future of the country, he said, "lies ... in the hands of the younger generation ... It is my hope and my belief that the trend to greater individualism and simplicity in the educational world will be followed as in the past by changes in social, economic and political thought."

13. Soong Mei-ling Chiang L.H.D. '43, First Lady of the Republic of China


Nat King Cole

14. Eleanor Roosevelt L.L.D. '47, First Lady of the United States; First United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

On campus to receive her honorary degree, Eleanor Roosevelt participated in a radio panel discussion on "The Moral and Civil Responsibility of Education to the Community," broadcast from Coxe Hall. She said: "It seems to me that one of the first things we have to consider is that which will be the basis of any secure peace, the definition and safeguarding of human rights throughout the world."

15. Princess Ileana of Romania Litt.D. '54, Great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II

16. Alexandra Lvovna Tolstoy L.H.D. '62, President of Tolstoy Foundation; daughter and secretary of Leo Tolstoy


Fred Rogers

17. Nat King Cole L.H.D. '65 (posthumous), Jazz vocalist, pianist, songwriter

18. Elizabeth Duncan Koontz L.H.D. '70, First African-American president of the National Education Association and director of the United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau

19. Dr. B.F. Skinner L.L.D. '72, Psychologist

20. Fred Rogers L.L.D '85, Creator and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

In his 1985 Commencement address, Fred Rogers shared his warm, neighborly advice with graduating seniors and the HWS community: "What [makes] the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, of course, but the main one, I think, is whether we link our wishes to our hopes and our hopes to our active striving. It might take months or years for a wish to come true, but it's far more likely to happen when you care so much about it that you'll do all you can to make it happen."

21. Wangari Maathai P'94, P'96, Sc.D. '94, Recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Price; Founder of the Green Belt Movement


Wangari Maathai

When she accepted the Elizabeth Blackwell Award on campus in 2008, Wangari Maathai emphasized how important it is "to manage our resources sustainably, share those resources more equitably and manage those resources with an understanding that we are only a passing cloud."

22. Gloria Steinem L.H.D. '98, Writer, activist, feminist organizer

In her 1998 Commencement address, Gloria Steinem urged graduates to consider the power of their own actions: "If the language of either/or diminishes and the language of and increases, we will have opened up a whole world of new connections and possibilities because the art of behaving ethically and effectively is behaving as if everything we do matters."

23. William Jefferson Clinton L.H.D. '17, 42nd President of the United States