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Area college presidents to honor Ukrainian President Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Website of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

More than a dozen area college and university presidents are taking a symbolic step to honor the Ukrainian president.

At least 15 colleges, many of them based in Western NY and the Finger Lakes, have said they will award honorary degrees to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy this spring.

The president of Alfred University, Mark Zupan, helped organize the group that also includes RIT, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Keuka College.

Zupan said the university presidents wanted to not only honor Zelenskyy for the bravery he has shown in leading Ukraine against the Russian invasion, but to also highlight the mission of teaching students how to live a meaningful life.

“Zelenskyy and the example he set has so resonated and if we wanted to impart an example to our graduating class to community, as Joyce says, living a life of consequence,” said Zupan. “This would be for all of us a wonderful example.”

Zupan also said that his parents came from Eastern Europe and had to deal with World War II and the impact of a dictatorship, so the Russian invasion of Ukraine really hits home for him.

RIT President David Munson issued a statement saying that since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the RIT community has been active in partnering with local and national non-profits to support the people of Ukraine. Munson said that Zelenskyy is doing more than effectively his country and fighting a war, “he’s fighting for fundamental human rights.”

RIT said that the university is in the early stages of ensuring the honorary degree “goes beyond just a symbolic gesture,” and they are working to see if it can be accompanied by additional support services for the people of Ukraine.

Zupan said that he doesn’t expect Zelenskyy to be able to accept his honorary degrees in person, but he hopes that if the Ukrainian president learns more about this effort, he might do some sort of video for them in accepting the honors.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.