In a tradition starting at the 1917 Commencement Ceremony, Millsaps College confers honorary degrees upon individuals who have been influential in their respective fields or have made significant contributions to society. See a list of former Honorary Degree Recipients. Millsaps College will honor the following distinguished individuals at the College's 118th Commencement Exercises, Saturday, May 12:
Robert Parker Adams, an alumnus, is a Jackson architect who has overseen the preservation of many of Mississippi's historic buildings including the Old Capitol, New Capitol, Governor's Mansion, the War Memorial Building and Jackson City Hall. He is a nationally recognized authority on the preservation and restoration of historic structures. After spending a year at Millsaps, Adams finished his degree in architecture at Auburn University. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his exceptional services in directing construction operations during the Vietnam War. At the age of 69 he received a master's degree in historic preservation from Goucher College.
Judge Neal Brooks Biggers Jr., a native of Corinth who completed his bachelor's degree at Millsaps in 1956, served four years in the United States Navy before receiving a law degree from the University of Mississippi. He practiced law for five years in Corinth prior to his election as Alcorn County prosecuting attorney in 1964. He served as district attorney for the First Judicial District of Mississippi from 1968 to 1975, and served as circuit judge of that district from 1975 to 1984, when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to his current position as U.S. District Judge for North Mississippi. He was chief judge from 1998 to 2000.
Elaine Gradinger Crystal, businesswoman, civic and cultural leader, and life trustee for Millsaps College, has lived in Mississippi since her marriage in 1949. She attended MacMurray College, the University of Iowa and Millsaps College and participated in Millsaps' Leadership Seminar in the Humanities in 1988-89. She is a member of the board of directors for the family's business, Jackson Iron & Metal Company, where for a period of time in the 1970's and 80's, she oversaw real estate management and development activities. She is an original board member for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. The Elaine and Emmanuel Crystal Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund administered through the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, supports a number of arts, religious, and educational entities in Jackson, including Millsaps College.
Charles L. Overby, a native of Jackson, is an advocate for the field of journalism and until his recent retirement, headed the Freedom Forum, which developed and operates the Newseum in Washington, D.C., among many other global commitments to freedom of expression. Before his work in Washington, he was executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger when the newspaper's news and editorial coverage of Mississippi's education reform received a Pulitzer Prize. In 2008 he received the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward was elected a bishop in The United Methodist Church and appointed to Mississippi in 2004. A native of North Carolina, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Duke University. She is a frequent teacher and preacher across the global United Methodist connection. She has served as vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries, president of JustPeace, chairperson of The Advance (channel of missional giving for the United Methodist Church) and Vision Alignment Chairperson of the Council of Bishops. Recently, she has been recognized for outstanding leadership by the Mississippi Religious Leadership Council.