Sheryl Crow, four others to be honored with honorary degrees at commencement

All degree recipients have ties to MU or Missouri.

Sheryl Crow, a 1984 graduate of the MU School of Music, will be on campus May 14 to receive an honorary degree and speak at the Honors Convocation.

Crow, one of MU's high-profile graduates, was approved as a potential degree recipient three years ago but was unable to attend commencement ceremonies until this year.

"She has a tremendously full schedule," Honorary Degrees Committee Chairman Bill Lamberson said. "Being able to get her schedule to allow her to come receive the honorary degree has taken awhile."

Lamberson said the process of choosing honorary degree recipients often takes several years. Candidates are presented to the committee, which votes on whether to send the nomination to Faculty Council. The UM System Board of Curators and the president of the university must then approve candidates.

The committee's nomination guidelines indicate nominees should have connections to MU or the state and have achieved distinction. Committee members stressed the importance of local relevance.

"If it's a person that has really close ties to the community, you have to be outstanding in some way," Lamberson said. "The more distant the ties, the more outstanding the individual has to be."

The university will award five honorary degrees this year. Three, including Crow, are MU graduates, and the others have worked closely with MU faculty and students.

"The honorary degrees say something about the candidates, but they also say something about us and the things we value," committee member Frank Schmidt said. "With Sheryl Crow, it's not only entertainment, but also her work in breast cancer awareness."

Schmidt said the choices of biochemist Kathryn Calame and embryologist Ian Wilmut indicate MU's commitment to science, and recipient Byron Calame of the Wall Street Journal reflects the school's tradition of producing excellent journalists.

MU will also honor Brian O'Connell, vice chancellor of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, an academic partner of MU.

Lamberson said additional high-profile candidates have been approved to receive honorary degrees, but their names are confidential.

"We have names that are already approved that you would recognize, but we don't announce those until they agree to come receive the degree," Lamberson said.

Although a Facebook group was created to try to bring Christopher Walken to MU, committee members said students have not become involved in the selection process. Anyone can nominate a candidate by writing a letter to the Honorary Degrees Committee with a brief outline of the merits of the nominee and his or her ties to MU or Missouri.

"We get almost no information from students, but it would be very welcome," Schmidt said.

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