Using the title "Dr." based on an honorary doctorate

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by RAM PhD, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Well-Known Member

    The thread is almost eight years old. It's been almost two years since the person you're asking a question of, has logged in. Might want to pull up a chair and grab a coffee... it could be a long wait.
  2. Leon Rolls

    Leon Rolls New Member

    We all agree that honorary doctorates are issued by Institutions of higher learning. The first University in the world was started by people without doctorates and the First-person issued the Doctorate was issued by people without a doctorate yes. Now for you to get a Ph.D. you must study, research and write a paper on a concept correct. That research is based on work done in that field, guess what its work is done by people that without a Ph.D. So the people that invent things, do what no one else has done and achieve great things uplifting society and the world as we know it, is it not fair for them to be recognized for doing those things. Imagine if some crazy person never opened a human body and realized we can actually fix ourselves. That person was not a doctor but today we have medical doctors. The same applies to everything in life. Mark Zundeber has an honorary doctorate and many other great people. So let us stop with the Professional jealousy and acknowledge the people that do the great things we are too scared, lazy or just won't do.
  3. Leon Rolls

    Leon Rolls New Member

    Thanks, I am very much aware of that however the question remains unanswered and I call on anyone who agrees with this to answer.
  4. Leon Rolls

    Leon Rolls New Member

    Honorary Doctorates are issued by Academia in recognition of greatness, we all know its not a title of academic achievement but on of lifetime achievement and contribution made in society hence the word honorary. I believe people with such a recognition deserve the title. Look at the work done by Nelson Mandela, you telling me he doesn't deserve to be called a Doctor for his dedication, and commitment in making life better for his people?
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    "It is sometimes recommended that such degrees be listed in one's curriculum vitae (CV) as an award, and not in the education section.[3] With regard to the use of this honorific, the policies of institutions of higher education generally ask that recipients "refrain from adopting the misleading title"[4] and that a recipient of an honorary doctorate should restrict the use of the title "Dr" before their name to any engagement with the institution of higher education in question and not within the broader community"

  6. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    You can do it, but it's tacky.
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    The Prime Minister of Dominica has two honorary doctorates now, and while his supporters often refer to him as "Dr Skerrit", I've never seen him refer to himself that way. But he was a teacher before he went into politics, which lends itself to taking education seriously.
  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I don't want to read this whole thread, so sorry if this is redundant.

    There is no difference between a doctorate awarded for cause and one awarded honorarily. None. Both entitle the recipient with "doctor" and those recipients are able to use that title.

    It's a weird practice. Kind of like Kentucky Colonels. You are titled "colonel," but I would not suggest giving orders to majors and captains.

    You might not like that. You might not think people who hold honorary doctorates should do that. But it's true. They can use the title "doctor."

    That said, it could be misleading to let people think your honorary doctorate is actually earned. Some users of the title "doctor" allow this, especially religious leaders. (But not limited to them. IIRC, Maya Angelou and Edwin Land did this.)

    Finally, a doctorate awarded honorarily will not suffice in any situation calling for an earned doctorate.
    newsongs likes this.
  9. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Correct on both. Land had done one year at Harvard before dropping out. Maya had no formal higher education at all, but had some 50 honorary degrees and was actually appointed a professor at Wake Forest University.

    Another one of my favorite examples: Jerry Falwell (senior). When he called me in an unsuccessful effort to get me not to release my book When the TRACS Stop Short, his first words on the phone were, "This is Dr. Jerry Falwell." I bit my lip to keep from laughing, since I was already aware that his formal education consisted of a three-year bachelor's from the then-unaccredited Baptist Bible College in Missouri. But Jerry had received three honorary doctorates (leaving him somewhat short of Maya's record). Even today, his biographical sketch on the Liberty University web site lists him as "Dr. Jerry Falwell."
  10. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    So there's your answer Leon. It's a bit of a post-modern thing. Some lack of absolute clarity. Subject to interpretation. So if you were to buy, umm, be granted an honorary doctoral degree you could probably refer to yourself as "Dr." as long as you are willing to ignore all the whispering and giggles behind your back. If you misrepresent the degree and lead people to believe it's an earned doctorate then you could expect to get slammed. It might take a while but in the end someone will figure it out and, you know how it is with social media these days, the word gets out.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    By the way, the "whispers and giggles" exist behind the backs of people with earned doctorates, too. Sometimes it's not even behind your back. And this is without ever insisting anyone call you "doctor."

    Some people are intimidated by it, so they lash out in ways that are sometimes childish, sometimes passive-aggressive, sometimes dismissive, even if you haven't said a word.

    I worked with one person in government like this. We were the same grade, but she was our chief of staff. In meetings, she would call everyone else by their first names, but before addressing me she would pause and then address me as "Mister Douglas." It was weird since I always introduced myself as "Rich." All my peers and all my subordinates also called me by my first name. But she had this thing in her head that wouldn't let her go.

    I never feed into any of this, and it's usually not an issue. But when it crops up, it does so in strange ways.
    ITJD likes this.
  12. Acolyte

    Acolyte Active Member

    There’s also an irony about it. Wanting the trappings of legitimate academia (if there truly is such a thing) while basically demeaning and disregarding the due process and rigors of academia.
  13. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Generally speaking, I don't see many people insisting on reflexive titles (i.e. "I am Dr. Smith") outside of healthcare. It kind of makes sense there. If Dr. Smith calls the lab looking for results, that is going to prompt a different response than if Jerry Smith calls, unless Dr. Smith knows literally everyone in the lab and they're all just cool like that. I have taken a lot of courses at a fair number of universities. I'm done with pursuing more degrees if, for no other reason, "provide us with transcripts from all schools attended" is a very expensive proposition for me these days. I can count on one hand the number of times an actual professor insisted on being called "Doctor" or "Professor."

    For the record, I've also noticed that the convention seems to differ from school to school. At some schools, all of the professors want to be called "Professor." At Scranton, it was generally understood that you called anyone with a doctorate "Doctor" and any instructor or (typically non-tenure track) professor without a doctorate "Professor." Yet, none of them introduced themselves as "Doctor" or "Professor." One of my favorite profs at Scranton, a philosopher named Bill Rowe (as a sidebar, the first professor I had who dropped an "F" bomb in class and immediately made me realize college was not high school) was known, pretty universally, as "Dr. Rowe." Yet, he introduced himself as "Bill Rowe." His syllabus had "William Rowe, PhD" in the heading. I had another professor at that same time who, interestingly, listed his name on his syllabus as "Mr. Edward Scahill, PhD."

    This is to say, while there are jerks in academia, most of the people who are teaching there are either focused on cranking through the courses they teach, research or the balance of the two. They are not sitting there thinking about how "legitimate" their PhD is or working up mental defenses for when people on the internet call their schools "Mickey Mouse." Nor are they sitting around thinking about new ways to get more people to call them "Doctor."

    So when someone insists on being called "doctor," especially in weirdly inappropriate settings like job interviews, it's not a good mark they are receiving in my mental inventory. It doesn't matter the nature of your doctorate. If you're coming in to interview for a job and everyone else has given you leave to call them by their first name, it's a crappy thing to insist on being called "Dr. Smith" by your potential new boss and colleagues. As a matter of fact, I once had a PhD leave an interview midway through the process because when they insisted that their potential manager (who also had a PhD) call him "Doctor" the manager commented that they don't stand on that level of formality and everyone was on a first name basis with everyone else. This was a deal breaker and he left, not wanting to waste his time with us further.

    Even physicians I know, outside of work calls where the title matters, don't walk around insisting that the world call them "Doctor" in every instance. Think about how rarely someone refers to a person as "Mister," for comparison. Outside of junk mail, I honestly cannot recall the last time someone called me "Mr. Neuhaus." Even going to a brand new Doctor's office they refer to me from the start by my seldom used legal first name.

    Had I been a student at Wake Forest and taken a class with Maya Angelou, I would have called her "Dr. Angelou" as a matter of respect. If I were in charge of sending some formal invitation to the late Jerry Falwell, I would probably identify him as "Doctor" instead of "Mister" there as well. This is just the same as how I have to go in and force add the title "Doctor" to the mailings of our employees with PhDs (by default, there is no title. When entered into our HRIS if a letter autogenerated it would be addressed to "John Smith" and I have to go in and force it to say "Dr. John Smith" since post-nominals are not a thing in this system).

    It's a matter of respect. I am saying that I respect your background enough to use, essentially, your highest possible title.

    If you strut around insisting that the barista at Starbucks put said highest title on your cup? You're being a jackass. It doesn't matter if you have an honorary doctorate or an earned PhD from Harvard, in my opinion. Unless you're teaching or leading a secondary school, I don't believe it proper to insist on any title for yourself unless you're in a specific situation where that is just the way it should be. If you're at a conference on a panel and everyone else's name tag says "Dr. X" but they put "Mr. Rich Douglas" or "Mr. Steve Levicoff" on one, I'd say it's more than OK to correct the oversight.

    Frankly, I think honorary degrees are rare enough and, typically, awarded for such exemplary conduct (or, you know, being a politician as the case may be) that this isn't really something to get worked up about either way. Now, I think the lawyers who insist on referring to themselves as "Doctor" on the basis of having a JD are another story...

    I will close this rant by sharing the cringiest "doctor" experience of my life that is oddly relevant here:

    I was attending an out of town wedding. I knew no one there. It was the wedding of a friend of my wife's whom I had never met as the last time they had seen each other was just before they graduated from high school. While I was lingering near the brie during the cocktail hour, I found my ears immediately drawn to this one boisterous gentleman who was, in the parlance of my profession, a douche. This family, consisting of a husband, wife and a son of about 14 or so, walked up to him. This guy clearly knew both parents and they were introducing their son to him for the first time. Big, Trump-like handshake follows. The boy confidently and respectfully said "Nice to meet you, Mr. Jackson (I don't remember his actual name)." The guy said "Oh, stop, Mr. Jackson is my father. You can call me Dr. Jackson." This was not a joke. He was dead serious and "graciously" accepted the boy's apology.

    In a rare move of active aggression on my part, I waited until we were in close proximity to one another sometime later. Introduced myself. He introduced himself as "Dr. Jackson." I asked him what sort of doctor he was. He responded that he was a dentist. So I gave him a playful punch on the arm and said "Hey, that's OK man, I couldn't get into medical school either. It's a tough candidate pool!" with a big smile feigning as much sincerity as I could in my tone.

    But you, know, two wrongs don't make a right and such.
  14. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    There's a professor at Liberty who lists her email signature as "Mrs. Jane Doe, Ed.D." We joked that she did it because she wanted us to know she was married lol. It could also be that she's not obsessed with being called "Dr."
  15. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    When I was in high school there were two teachers with the same last name (they were brothers). One had a PhD in Math and so, to differentiate them on class schedules, the administration called one "Doctor" and one "Mister." Said doctor, however, did not like using the title. Not at all. He insisted in class that no one call him "Doctor" as he felt the title was more appropriate to clinicians and there was no practical reason to style him any differently than any other math teacher. We can disagree, of course. And we can say we would have handled it differently in his shoes. I get what he's saying but I cannot imagine holding such a firm line like that. Still, some people just don't want to be called "Doctor." Some people only associate the title with physicians.
  16. ITJD

    ITJD Active Member

    There's a general vibe in circles I run for people to stop putting credentials in their signatures once they begin their doctoral studies. Certainly by the time the person has the doctorate and is doing research or teaching the usual behavior is not to use the term. Makes sense when you think on it as a room full of Ph.Ds would be calling everyone "doctor". It's old hat.

    Other reason to hold a line is to keep people from treating you differently.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  17. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    We have a similar situation at the school I now teach. The father has an Ed.D. and the son doesn't have a doctorate. We address the father as "Dr." and the son as "Mr." It's funny you brought up the issue of physicians. For some reason they think they own the title. They weren't even the first to use it. That title originated from a Latin word, which means "to teach." Some physicians don't even hold doctorates, i.e. those with MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine; Bachelor of Surgery).
  18. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    When I started as a recruiter years ago, there were far fewer MBAs in the job market. It was only just before the proliferation of MBA programs in tiny colleges that didn't have anything you could reasonably call a business school.

    Anyway, at that time, it wasn't unheard of to see someone using the post-nominals "MBA" on resumes or business cards. This is just not a thing anymore. People will put their PMP on their cards. Maybe their HR designations. The certifications are now taking up the real estate once enjoyed exclusively by degrees (at least in the US)
  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Ben Kingsley is reported to have insisted people call him “Sir Ben” after his knighthood. This lasted for a very short while when Ben came to realize it made him sound like a tool.

    I list my titles when there is something (like a speaker’s bio) about me. I don’t insist people use the styling “Doctor,” nor do I refer to myself as that. But I am a doctor of two scholarly fields and I am appropriately titled as such. I won’t push it on you, but please don’t strive to take it away.
  20. Acolyte

    Acolyte Active Member

    I was a non-traditional student. I was 35 before I got my B.A. There was a trend at the time for my profs to discourage use of the title, “Doctor” - they insisted we call them by their first names. I refused. I told them I wasn’t paying all that money to take classes from, “Bob” - I was paying to take classes from a prof with a doctorate. Mostly we settled on the informal, “Doc” but my impression was that they enjoyed having the title, especially coming from someone older than them (most were in their late 20’s) who was showing their position, achievements, Status, and respect that IMHO it deserves in that setting, zI know I spent a lot of time and money and hard work on my M.S. and I put it in my email signature as soon as I graduated. It’s a credential, and I’m going to advertise it as such.

Share This Page