Elmira College has announced the school will award Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an honorary degree in absentia, joining a growing group of colleges and universities that will do the same. The honorary degrees, which are symbolic, recognize the heroic leadership Zelenskyy has shown so far during the war with Russia while also honoring the Ukrainian people and their struggle to maintain their independence as a sovereign nation.
“We are glad to be part of the movement to recognize the courage, fortitude, and grace Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown in what is perhaps the most difficult test a leader can face,” said Dr. Charles Lindsay, President of Elmira College. “In Zelenskyy, we see a person who exemplifies the kind of character and leadership we hope our students will embody as they face the challenges and complexities of today’s world.”
Zelenskyy, 44, has been President of Ukraine since 2019 but received international prominence after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Zelenskyy has been praised for staying in Ukraine to lead the country’s forces and for effectively communicating about the war to the people of Ukraine as well as national leaders. Many credit him for rallying Ukrainian civilians to assist the military in turning back the Russian campaign.
To date, at least 17 other institutions will confer Zelenskyy with an honorary degree. The idea began with Alfred University President Mark Zupan. He reached out to colleges and universities in the greater Rochester, New York area, a region that is home to nearly 40,000 people of Ukrainian descent.
In addition to recognizing Zelenskyy with an honorary degree, Elmira College students, faculty, and staff have shown support for the Ukrainian people through rallies and donations. On March 7, two Elmira College professors hosted a campus-wide forum to discuss the history and context of the conflict. On March 20, the College hosted a Unity In The Community rally for the people of Ukraine. The event was organized by Dr. Stephen Coleman and raised funds to support humanitarian efforts for the people of Ukraine. Similarly, Elmira College students are planning a Ukraine Prayer Vigil on May 4 to reflect and show their support for Ukrainians.
Those who would like to contribute to a Ukrainian relief fund may use this link (https://www.uuarc.org/), which is endorsed by St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church in Elmira Heights.