An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa (Latin: "for the sake of the honour") is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations. The degree is typically a doctorate and is conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished recipient's contributions to a specific field or to society in general. The practice dates back to the middle ages. The earliest honorary degree on record was awarded to Lionel Woodville in the late 1470s by the University of Oxford.
Washburn University awarded its first honorary degree in 1888. The honorary degree is the highest academic recognition Washburn University can bestow. Recipients of these degrees have demonstrated high standards of excellence in their life and work as evidenced by scholarship or achievement; by public service to the world, the nation, the state, or the community; in wholehearted commitment to the development of Washburn University; or through excellence in any calling or occupation which visibly contributed to the development of society and serves as a model for present and future generations. Recipients generally have significant ties to the State of Kansas or to Washburn University through birth, residence, education, service, or notable achievement.
Nominations for candidates to receive an honorary degree are submitted by faculty, students, Washburn University Foundation members, Washburn Board of Regents members, and Alumni Association members to the Honorary Degree Committee in late September. The committee reviews the nominations and its recommendations are forwarded by the chairperson to the president of the university for consideration and submission to the Board of Regents for formal action. The nominations and recommendations remain confidential until approved by the Board of Regents.
Honorary degrees are awarded at Washburn University's May commencement exercises and the recipient must be present.