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Awarding a Honorary Degree
An honorary degree, honoris causa which is Latin: ‘for the sake of the honor’, is an academic degree for which a university or a degree-awarding institution has waived the usual requirements like the sitting of examinations.
An honorary degree is a doctorate, awarded to individuals who have no prior connection with the institution in question. The conferring of an honorary degree is the greatest honor that any University can bestow to a person.
The degree is usually conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished person’s contributions to a specific field, or to society in general. Honorary degrees are usually awarded at regular graduation ceremonies, at which the recipients are invited to make an acceptance speech before the assembled faculty and graduates – an event which forms the highlight of the graduation ceremony.
This practice dates back to the Middle Ages, when for various reasons a university would be persuaded, or otherwise deem it fit, to grant exemption from some or all of the usual statutory requirements for the award of a degree.
The first recorded honorary degree was awarded to Lionel Woodville in the late 1470s by the University of Oxford.
At the University of Nairobi, the nomination undergoes thorough scrutiny of the respective Faculty/Institute/School Boards and College Academic Boards before being submitted to the Honorary Degrees Committee of Council. A nominee may be a distinguished scholar, who has worked or made a recognized contribution, beyond their scholarly contributions, or who have assisted the University in various activities including fundraising, research or sponsored a professional chair, while others may have made contributions to the country or the world that are considered honorable by the University.
Since 1970, the University has conferred 31 honorary degrees.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, first President of the Republic of Kenya was recognized and appreciated for his leadership in building independent Kenya.
Amadou Mahtar M’bow distinguished himself with his long and outstanding service in the development of education. M’bow, the first African to hold the position of Director-General of UNESCO, believed that through education, the foundation of Peace could be laid in the minds of men.
Hon. Daniel arap Moi received recognition for his long and varied experience in public affairs. Daniel arap Moi, a courageous statesman defended the constitution and the rule of law promoting Kenyans greater freedom and unfettered pursuit of goals.
The University of Nairobi paid homage to Abdus Salam, in recognition of his discoveries in theoretical physics; these formed an invaluable contribution to the transfer of science to developing countries.
The University recognized the contribution of Bethuel Mareka Gechaga for his distinguished service to the University of Nairobi, through his steering of the governing council of the University in the post independence period, during which he promoted the Kenyanisation of staff, defending the quality education the University was giving. Between 1972 and 1979, Gechaga served as the UoN Chairman of Council.
Judge Taslim Olwale was singled out for his achievements as an academic and international scholar in the field of law. An African personality and intellectual, Olwale was the first African to hold the position of the president of the International Court of justice at The Hague.
Albert Matson Thomas was singled out for his contribution to the study of the history of Kenyan. His research and writings retrieved fundamental and invaluable material relevant to the study of the history of Kenya.
Rafael M. Salas, a distinguished scholar in population studies was honored for his meritorious services to the United Nations, where, he played a crucial role in convincing developing countries to embrace population studies and economic development.
Walter Plowright was honored in recognition of his contribution to the study of animal diseases, his research and publications at Kabete and Muguga research stations are public property.
Daisaku Ikeda was nominated in recognition of his immense contribution to promoting a culture of peace. An idealist with a clear vision for the future of mankind, Ikeda remains selfless in his commitment to the course of world peace. His pursuit to promote peace through humanism over the past 60 years has been recognized worldwide, for which he has received over 340 academic honours.
The University recognized the activities of Arthur Thomas Porter, the founder principal of the University College, Nairobi. A pioneer scholar, Porter, the son of Africa achieved great academic status both at home and nations beyond.
Lawrence George Sagini (posthumously) a nationalist who served his country in difficult political office and times, with dedication, he humbly shared and radiated his vision while serving as chairman of the Council of the University of Nairobi.
The University recognized the distinguished academic career of Simon Hongo Ominde, first African Professor of the University of Nairobi and East Africa.
Gideon Saulo Were, a historian was recognized for his pioneering scholarship on the history of Kenya, an inspiration to young scholars to research the history of their people.
Julius Gikonyo Kiano was recognized as a promoter of educational opportunities and business linkages for Kenyans, Kiano, was the perfect blend of an intellectual and professional politician. He was the first Kenyan to earn a PhD degree and the first Kenyan to teach at the then Royal Technical College which would later become the University of Nairobi.
Manilal Premchand Chandaria, an outstanding industrialist, was honored for his involvement in many charitable and social welfare activities which support education in Kenya.
The University paid homage to Joseph Maina Mungai, in recognition of his immense contribution to higher education in Kenya, and to the application of advanced knowledge in dealing with health problems in Kenya.
Godwin Olu Obasi was recognized for his contribution in the field of meteorology and hydrology. A distinguished scientist and a son of Africa, Obasi has been crucial in policy and research on meteorology worldwide.
Hassanaly Rattansi, was recognized for his outstanding personal contribution to social justice. A renowned philantrophist, Rattansi has raised millions to support education in Kenya. He remains a true friend of the University of Nairobi.
The University honored David Peter Simon Wasawo, in recognition of his outstanding dedication to the application of science and technology to development. An outstanding scholar with impeccable credentials, David made enormous contribution to research and teaching of science.
Richard Darwin Keynes, a distinguished physiologist was awarded the degree in recognition of his contribution to the understanding of electro-physiological processes and international science.
In 2000, the University recognized the contribution of Gerald Munene Mugera, the first black holder of a PhD in veterinary medicine in Africa.
The University recognized the contributions of Vak-yeong Yoo, towards the promotion of medical education in Kenya. It is through the efforts of Yoo that the College of Health Sciences received a much needed facelift, to inspire students to pursue truth and scholarship.
The University of Nairobi honoured H.E. Hon Mwai Kibaki for his tireless work to establish harmony, understanding and cooperation between the many groupings and parties of Kenya. Kibaki has been a consummate national leader with truly instructive lessons, gifts and a priceless and important legacy for future generations.
Joseph Barrage Wanjui was recognized as an outstanding industrial development professional with exemplary skills in business leadership and as a major contributor to the development of institutional management in Kenya.
The University honoured for the first time, an African woman, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, in recognition and acknowledgement of her distinguished and selfless service to the nation and her outstanding work in conservation of the environment.
The University honoured H.E. Hon. Mwai Kibaki, for being an inspiring leader committed to scholarship, democratic ideals, and ensures opportunity and fair treatment for all, especially for the vulnerable member of the society.
The University of Nairobi recognized H.E. Dr. Kofi Annan for his diverse diplomatic success, and that the paradigm of peacemaking he applied to Kenya which is being replicated in different countries.
The University honoured Hon Raila Odinga as a nationalist who has walked the journey of academics, publics servants, entrepreneurs, liberator of the oppressed and now walk the journey of an eminent African statesman.
The University honoured John Simba for his contribution to the institution. Over a 7 year period, Simba injected into UoN, a business approach into the management of its programmes and affairs with a legal precision and with brilliant results.