A Clemson faculty member was recently awarded an honorary doctorate for extensive international community development by the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic. Mark Small, professor of psychology and director of the Clemson University Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, received the doctorate honoris causa in early June.
The university awards honorary doctorates to those why have significantly expanded human knowledge or promoted the development of the ideals of humanity. The university held the public ceremony in the 18th century town hall; Small said the ceremony was a solemn occasion with traditional rituals spoken in Latin, Czech and English.
As is tradition, the opening procession of deans from the university faculties was joined by rectors and vice-rectors from all other major universities in the Czech Republic and included bearers of three symbolic scepters from the university and town. National anthems from the Czech Republic, United States and European Union were played on organ and the ceremony concluded with five song selections from the 16th and 17th centuries performed a cappella by a choir.
Small said the singular nature of the honor was truly reinforced for him by aspects of the ceremony that date back centuries.
“There is no comparable academic ritual in the United States,” Small said. “Part of the ritual included me raising my hand and taking a vow, in Latin, to uphold the ideals of knowledge creation and dissemination. I felt incredibly honored, grateful and moved by the experience.”
During his invited address, Small highlighted the importance of understanding the universal need for community approaches and the role of universities to promote such solutions. He spoke of how he and other faculty members are responsible for generating new knowledge, translating knowledge to wisdom and passing it along to future generations.
Small first visited the Czech Republic in 2001 and later served as a Fulbright Scholar in 2004 and a Fulbright Senior Specialist in 2006. Through teaching, research and service he has engaged students through Clemson’s Study Abroad program and received funding through the European Union’s prestigious ERASMUS program for faculty exchanges.
Small has also involved foundation leaders and philanthropists from South Carolina in exchanges looking to mutually promote community development.
Small’s honorary doctorate was made possible by Valerie Tothova and Jitka Vackova, dean and vice dean, respectively, of the faculty of health and social sciences at University of South Bohemia. In 2018, they submitted Small’s nomination to begin an extensive vetting process. Small is only the second person to be awarded an honorary degree from this faculty.
“His scientific and pedagogical achievements, and especially his compassionate and sympathetic approach to his work and colleagues over the last 18 years, have significantly and meaningfully influenced the academic staff of the faculty of health and social sciences,” Vackova said during the program’s official laudation. “Professor Small has been a strong advocate of the field of community social work and promoting children’s rights.”
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