Alice Gordon Gulick (1847-1903), an 1868 graduate of Mount Holyoke, was among the first group of women to receive a honorary degree from the College. Gulick and her husband, William, established the International Institute for Girls in Spain, now known as the Instituto Internacional.
Mount Holyoke College began the practice of awarding honorary degrees in 1894. These awards celebrate the work of notable alumnae as well as others who have achieved distinction in the arts and humanities, politics and the law, the sciences, social work, and education. Recipients of degrees include Jane Addams, Maya Angelou, Virginia Apgar, Glenn Close, Rosa Parks, Frances Perkins, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, Wendy Wasserstein, and United States President William McKinley.
Honorary degrees are usually presented during Commencement ceremonies at the College. The degrees most often given are: Doctor of Laws (LL.D.), Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.), Sc.D. (Doctor of Science), L.H.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters), D.F.A. (Doctor of Fine Arts), D.C.L (Doctor of Civil Law), and Mus.D. (Doctor of Music).