April 11th, 2009
06:45 PM ET
9 years ago

Arizona State apologizes for degree flap, honors Obama

ASU is expanding what it calls its most important scholarship program and naming it after President Obama.

ASU is expanding what it calls its most important scholarship program and naming it after President Obama.

(CNN) - Arizona State University appeared to backtrack Saturday in the controversy over not giving President Barack Obama an honorary degree, and said it would pay tribute to the president by expanding its most important scholarship program and naming it after him.

"I apologize for the confusion surrounding our invitation to President Obama to address ASU students at commencement," said ASU President Michael Crow said in a news release from the university.

"The entire ASU community has been electrified with excitement since we learned of his participation in our commencement ceremony. We hope that the recent discussion of honorary degrees will not detract from the honor and thrill that ASU – and indeed all of Arizona – is experiencing in anticipation of his visit. I am honored, as are our faculty, staff and students, that President Obama will give his first commencement speech as president of the United States at ASU."

The president is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at ASU on May 13.

RELATED: Arizona State students scalping Obama commencement tickets

The school faced criticism after it said it would not give Obama an honorary degree, something the university describes as a way to acknowledge people who have made contributions to society.

The university said earlier that the president's achievements have yet to rate the honor, and directed reporters to use a statement given to the Associated Press. "His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency," Media Relations Director Sharon Keller told the AP Thursday.

The university's guidelines say the degree is merited by "significant contributions to education and society over the course of a person's career," though Sandra Day O'Connor and Barry Goldwater — both Arizonans — received the honor after the latter had served just over one term in the Senate, and the former was roughly three years into her Supreme Court tenure. Also honored: activist Cesar Chavez, legendary Arizona senator and former presidential candidate Mo Udall and broadcaster Walter Cronkite.

Crow said the school had always intended to recognize and honor Obama’s accomplishments, but had not yet determined the best way to do so.

“Although the focus and attention of the media and others has been on an honorary degree, we never felt that was the only–or even the best–means of honoring his tremendous service to our country,” Crow said. “Naming this scholarship program after President Obama that will affect the lives of thousands of students is an honor befitting, not only the president's exceptional achievements, but also his values as an individual. The President Barack Obama Scholars program will be a legacy that will endure and inspire others for generations to come."

The school said the expanded scholarship program will provide thousands of students with the greatest financial need the opportunity to go to college.

- CNN's Kate Bolduan and Kristi Keck contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Obama = Abortion

    Unlike Notre Dame, ASU is not a Catholic school, so at least there is no problem with the abortion issue. But Catholic Notre Dame, like many Catholics, suffers from the worst hypocrisy: they claim to deplore abortion, but they gleefully voted for Obama the abortion candidate anyway. Now it's Obama – the abortion President.

    April 11, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  2. Ann Kuminns

    If you look at those who have been honored with this kind of degree, you can see it means absolutely nothing, for there have been so many crooks and liars, and people of no consequence or done any good for anyone. So what does it matter? This is the dishonor of the university and shame on them. Bravo to Obama for speaking and let us know that these "honorary" titles mean nothing in the real world except to make those little people feel that they are "someone". Others who are already established and honorable DO NOT NEED any of these bogus titles.

    April 11, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  3. Richie

    What idiots. Like an honorary degree is so precious. He should cancel and speak somewhere that will appreciate it.

    April 11, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  4. D. Simmons, TX.

    The university's guidelines say the degree is merited by "significant contributions to education and society over the course of a person's career,"

    As a community organizer and Senator, the President has already made significant contributions to education and society and have been doing so all of his life.

    Not bestowing President Obama with a honorary degree is an insult to the say the least. However, at this point is is too little, too late. To do so now would demean the honor as it is only given because of pressure from the media and the American public.

    Sad, very sad indeed ASU.

    April 11, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  5. Suzanne

    I'm sure Obama has too much class to back out but the university should be ashamed of itself for being so disrespectful to the President of the United States. What the hell are they talking about; his accomplishments are yet to come. How much more accomplished can you be than being the president of the US and the leader of the free world. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    April 11, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. Mel of Alexandria

    I shall no longer use the expression "eat crow". This is indeed a better way to go, but it should have been announced up front and that would not have given the impression of slighting the President.

    April 11, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  7. The Bu

    These people at ASU meant what they said when they first issued a statement. Nothing has changed, with the exception of the public's reaction, which ASU did not anticipate. If you were going figure out the best way to honor the President, you should have said that in your first statement.

    April 11, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  8. angela

    Why would the school ask him to speak if they felt that he had not "achieved any body of work" yet? Sounds like they are still pissed because he beat the pants off of their beloved Senator. I'm sure most faculty & top administrators at the college were top contributors of McCain. The even bigger question is why is he speaking there in the first place? There are plenty other colleges who would be over enjoyed to have him accept their invitation. ASU administrators, get over it and get a life. You look really stupid right now.

    April 11, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. sherey

    I can't fathom the thinking here. The President has already made enormous strides both prior to being elected and post election. ASU should be very embarassed. Shame on them!

    April 11, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Art Michaelson

    Well said

    April 11, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. Jex

    Too little, too late.

    April 11, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  12. Grosse Point Blanke

    So they caved in to political pressure. Nothing new for this administration.

    April 11, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  13. Steve

    How can such apparently intelligent people be so stupid. No common

    April 11, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Sun devil '95

    I was very proud of ASU for not bending over for the administration that has so far only shown that it can take from society. Holding back on the honorary degree makes me proud that I have actually recieved one from this university. I agree that a Presidential visit is normally a privilege and should be celebrated, but handing out your highest honor to a completely unproven liberal spokesmodel would be worth less than the paper its written on. Once again, this is just an example of the medias love affair with the "one" they believe will save them. You'd think the liberal media would learn from the failure of their radio station and now their newspapers. Next goes the television. Seems ASU's Walter Cronkite school of journalism would learn the importance of objectivity from this farce. If you lie, your business will die. Take your scholarship program, I'll keep by ASU Bachelor's degree! Go Sun Devils!

    April 11, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  15. Paul

    This is the most ridiculous self-delusional university decision in decades, when ASU has honored dozens of recipients with far less achievement. The argument for a body of work and says President Obama's is not finished should send the degree committee members, composed of egg-head professors, back to Critical Thinking 1 for freshmen for re-education. This is so laughable as to beyond comment, so I shut up and apologize for writing this to all. Perhaps University of Arizona should show ASU why it is always second-rate!

    April 11, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. D. D.

    If you can't afford the material for the honorary sash or paper say so- we will donate to the cause. We know times are tough but if our President is too inexperience why the dickens did you invite our President?

    What do you want a powerpoint tour of the White House, Marine One or Sidwell School? Is that your expections for such a renowned and literate man.Pitiful. Don't cowl down when he mentions your behavior in his usual joking manner- begin to practice your media smile.

    You are not projecting well to our country or others who are following your escapade. Certainly President Obama has certainly achieved more than all who are making those shallow and unethical decisions at ASSUME UNIVERSITY.

    April 11, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. FreeNLovIt

    Good for him! He's come out of a COMA. Obie has just changed the world and will make it possible for any minority on planet Earth to be the next Prez. That's change youcan believe

    April 11, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  18. Sara

    And will Sharon be keeping her job? I doubt it!

    April 11, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  19. TJ Williams

    The University should be ashamed of how clumsy this whole affair was handled. These are supposed to be professionals. It seems they really wanted to "throw a brick and hide their hand" in this incident. the fact that this is the home state of Republican John McCain is not lost on Americans either. As usual...the Whitehouse has responded to the whole sorted mess with class and integrity. People need to grow up.

    April 11, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  20. Liberal4Obama

    I hope ASU's President and members of the board who made those VERY HURTFUL comments have enough courage and dignity to RESIGN over this, it's the only way ASU's name will truly be "cleared", other than that it will remain as an institution that displayed racist behavior against one of the most accomplished persons to ever serve as POTUS

    April 11, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. Grant

    Michael Crow said when he took office that ASU was not going to five any honorary degrees to donors or to sitting politicians anymore.

    Obama is a sitting politician.

    April 11, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  22. Denise

    It is about time!!! Their reason or disqualifying him made no sense. Let's see: mixed raced child abandoned by Black Kenyan father. Raised by his 2x's divorced mom on food stamps and welare. Attends prestigious Harvard to receive a Law Degree in Constitutional law. Elected to Senate seat in both Illinois and D.C. Gives the Democrats THE SPEECH in 2004 that launhes his career on the national stage. Runs for the Presidency in 2008 and beats the likes of such stalwarts as J McCain, HRC, Biden, Dodd, Romney, etc. Becomes the country's 1st President with ACKNOWLEDGED Arican blood who has to clean up the WHITE Man's mess!

    Sounds deserving o a HD to me!!

    April 11, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. disgusted

    What an embarrassment! Boo! The tone of Arizona's denial of an honorary degree for The President and subsequent reversal of that decision, with the "confusion" explanation/apology, is distinctly low-brow for an institution of their stature.

    April 11, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  24. Gary

    This idea of giving graduation speakers honorary degrees is silly anyway. A university should have speakers but not give these fake degrees. Everytime I think of how hard I worked for my degree and then I see someone get a degree from my alma mater for speaking at graduation, it cheapens the University and the Alumni.

    I agree with ASU. Obama hasn't done anything worthy of earning an ASU degree. That is not political, it is a fact. He doesn't have to be embarrassed or ashamed of that. If it makes him feel better, I haven't done anything that would make me worthy of an ASU degree either. No hard feelings.

    April 11, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  25. HannibalSilver

    ASU by refusing to honor Obama with an honorary degree is punishing itself by exposing to all, a very poor level or lack of sound judgment. That's pathetic!

    April 11, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
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