Photo by Ariel Bravy

Former Tech President and former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Dr. G. Wayne Clough will speak at the Spring 2015 commencement and receive an honorary Ph.D. from the Institute.

Clough will give the commencement address for the graduate ceremony while the speakers for the two undergraduate commencement ceremonies will be Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education and General Philip M. Breedlove, Commander, U.S. European Command, NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Tech alumnus.

Clough is among a group of less than 30 people to receive an honorary degree from the Institute. Tech does not automatically confer honorary degrees upon commencement speakers; only when the Institute feels that the speaker has made an important impact.

“They’re not common, we try not to give them out all the time, but it’s for people who have made significant contributions either to Georgia Tech in particular or to higher education or the human condition,” said Lynn Durham, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff to the President.

Clough, the only Tech alumnus to become President of the Institute, began his tenure as Tech President in 1994 and left in 2008 to lead the Smithsonian. During his time at Tech, many areas of campus were created and rebuilt.

“The physical look of campus totally changed while he was here,” Durham said. “The whole Bio quad is him and Tech Square is him. His presence, he brought both of those and completely changed the face of this campus. So when students walk around this campus, what they’re seeing wasn’t here prior to Wayne Clough.”

The process of conferring an honorary degree and choosing commencement speakers begins with a campus committee that makes recommendations to the President.

“There’s a campus committee that meets and they make recommendations to the President for honorary doctorates and for commencement speakers. And so they meet, they talk about that, decide what they’d like to do and the President decides yes or no,” Durham said. “Obviously when [President Peterson] got the recommendation for Wayne Clough [the answer was] ‘absolutely, we’d be happy to do that.’”

After the President approves the honorary degree, it is submitted to the Georgia Board of Regents for final approval. Clough’s degree was considered and approved by the Board at their monthly meeting Feb. 11.

Clough retired as Secretary of the Smithsonian in October of last year. According to Durham, Clough plans to move back to Atlanta and spend his “semi-retirement” back at Tech.

“He’s coming back to campus in a working capacity, and it’s a little unsure exactly what he’s going to be doing, but he always told me when he went to the Smithsonian that he loved the Smithsonian, but what he missed was the students and the energy the students bring and being on a campus,” Durham said.

Clough graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Tech in 1964. He then went on to get a Master’s and Ph.D degree from the University of California, Berkely, also in Civil Engineering. According to Durham, when Clough returns, his office will be in the Mason building.