For the first time since 1972, Emory University will not award any honorary degrees at the 2021 commencement ceremony on May 14, Director of Enterprise Communications Gana Ahn wrote to the Wheel. 

“After careful consideration, and the desire to focus on our students in the exceptional circumstances of this commencement, President Fenves decided not to move forward with awarding an honorary degree this year,” Ahn wrote in an April 1 email. 

“We also recognize that our honorary degree recipients should be celebrated in person and that the Emory community would find more meaning in continuing this tradition with the Commencement for the Class of 2022.”

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who achieved “the highest distinction in a field of learning, the arts, the professions or public service,” according to the honorary degrees naming criteria.  

Former honorary degree recipients include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last year’s honorary degree went to civil rights leader Bryan Stevenson, Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer and virologist and Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi.

The University still plans to award Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci with the President’s Medal for his role in combating COVID-19.