Willamette University views the awarding of a posthumous degree as compassionate means to celebrate the life and contributions to the university community of a student who dies prior to completion of their degree. The awarding of a posthumous degree may bring closure for the family and friends of the deceased student as well as the university community.

Generally, to be considered for a posthumous degree, the student should have completed at least two-thirds (2/3) of all coursework toward the degree. A request for a posthumous degree may be initiated through the dean of the school in which the student was enrolled. The request must be in writing.


  1. Upon request for the awarding of a posthumous degree, the student’s dean initiates a formal letter of request to the provost. This letter should include a brief description of the student’s accomplishments and contributions to the university, as well as a summary of outstanding degree requirements. It should also include the complete name in which the posthumous degree should be awarded.
  2. If the provost approves the request, they will contact the deceased student’s immediate family to determine whether the family is receptive to the university’s granting a posthumous degree. If affirmative, the provost instructs the university registrar to award the posthumous degree for the next scheduled graduation date.
  3. The provost requests, from the university president, a letter of condolence addressed to the student’s family. This letter should be forwarded to the registrar for inclusion with the student’s diploma.
  4. The registrar records the awarding of the degree on the student’s transcript and also indicates that the degree is awarded posthumously (e.g. Bachelor of Arts Degree Awarded Posthumously, May 17, 2020).
  5. The registrar produces a diploma which includes a notation that the degree is “Awarded Posthumously”.
  6. The registrar forwards the diploma and letter of condolence from the president to the student’s dean.
  7. The student’s name will be included in the commencement program with an “Awarded Posthumously” designation.
  8. The dean makes arrangements for presentation or mailing of the diploma and letter of condolence to the student’s family.
Willamette University

Office of the Registrar

Waller Hall, First Floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
M-F, 8am-5pm (summer hours: M-F, 8am-4:30pm)

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