Honorary Degrees

Honorary degrees recognize those who have made profound and enduring contributions to scholarship, culture, and improved quality of life in society at large.

Achievements of national or international significance receive the strongest consideration by university's Honorary Degree Committee. Any member of the university community can submit a nomination and it is important that recipients be persons of great integrity, as the choices we make reflect our values as an institution. Towson University has awarded more than 100 degrees (list of past recipients) since 1969.

Early History

The first Towson University honorary degrees, Doctors of Humane Letters, were conferred in 1969 upon Benjamin Arthur Quarles, who was a historian, administrator, scholar, educator, and writer, and Marvin Mandel a politician and Maryland's 56th governor.

Recent Honorees

beverly daniel tatum. doctor of humane letters, may 2018

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, is a clinical psychologist widely known for both her expertise on race relations and as a thought leader in higher education.  Her thirteen years as the president of Spelman College (2002-2015) were marked by innovation and growth and her visionary leadership was recognized in 2013 with the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award. 

The author of several books including the best-selling “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race" and in 2007 "Can We Talk About Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation." President Tatum is a sought-after speaker on the topics of racial identity development, race and education, strategies for creating inclusive campus environments, and higher education leadership. 

In 2005, President Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field.   A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, she was the 2014 recipient of the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology. 

A civic leader in the Atlanta community, President Tatum is engaged in educational initiatives designed to expand educational opportunity for underserved students and their families. She serves on the governing boards of the Westside Future Fund, Achieve Atlanta, Morehouse College and Smith College as well as the Georgia Power Company and the Educational Testing Service.

marin alsop, doctor of humane letters, May 2016

Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and principal conductor and music director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, is an inspiring and powerful voice in the international music scene. She is recognized across the world for her innovative approach to programming and for her deep commitment to education and to the development of audiences of all ages.

Born in New York City, Alsop attended Yale University and received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School. Her conducting career was launched when, in 1989, she was a prize-winner at the Leopold Stokowski International Conducting Competition and in the same year was the first woman to be awarded the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize from the Tanglewood Music Center, where she was a pupil of Leonard Bernstein.

As part of her artistic leadership in Baltimore, Alsop has created bold initiatives that have contributed to the wider community and reached new audiences. In 2008 she launched OrchKids, which provides music education, instruments, meals and mentorship to the city’s neediest young people. Engaging the local community, the BSO Academy and Rusty Musicians schemes also allow adult amateur musicians the chance to play alongside members of the orchestra under Alsop’s baton. 

francis soistman '79, DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS, december 2015

Francis Soistman earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Towson and later graduated from The Stanford University Executive Program. He credits both programs as the foundation for his success.

As executive vice president of Aetna and president of the Government Services segment, Soistman is responsible for driving growth in the company’s Medicare, Medicaid and public and labor businesses, including the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program business. He was previously executive vice president, chief operating officer and co-founder of Jessamine Healthcare, a firm focused on strategic investment opportunities in the health care industry. He also held several leadership positions with Coventry Health Care, including executive vice president for the Individual Consumer and Government Business Division.

In 2004 he received the Ernst & Young Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Health Care Technology/Services category.

His relationship with Towson University has included a variety of volunteer roles: a  place on the Board of Visitors, vice presidency  of the Towson University Foundation Board, and membership in the Athletics Advisory Board and the Athletics Solutions Committee. He also serves as a member of the University System of Maryland Chancellor’s Advisory Council, as well as the University System of Maryland Foundation Board of Directors.

“He approaches complex issues with the university’s best interests at heart—unfailingly thoughtful, inclusive and focused on the ultimate goal,” the honorary degree language states.