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Manor College to confer its first honorary degree on Ukraine President Zelensky

The school said it was joining at least 15 other institutions across the nation that will confer degrees on the Ukrainian leader.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the U.S. Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, D.C.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the U.S. Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, D.C.Read moreJ. Scott Applewhite/Pool/AFP / M

Manor College in Jenkintown intends to confer its first-ever honorary degree on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during commencement ceremonies in May, the school announced Friday.

In doing so, a college that was founded 75 years ago by Ukrainian Sisters will recognize the man who has become the face of Ukrainian resistance to a brutal Russian assault and bombardment.

Zelensky has risen from actor and comedian to president to global political star, hailed by western governments for courageously and calmly leading Ukraine’s fight. One widely shared video showed Zelensky surveying the streets of Kyiv this month, coffee cup in hand, seemingly preternaturally at ease.

“President Zelensky’s humanitarianism and care for Ukraine’s people is unparalleled in the contemporary world,” said Manor College President Jonathan Peri in making the announcement, commending the “depth, compassion, and courage of President Zelensky’s leadership.”

Now more than ever, he said, “it’s important we raise the profile of westernized values and democracy, and support President Zelensky, because of not only his bravery but because of his defense of what we stand for, the civilized world.”

The Ukrainian president will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters, awarded to those who have distinguished themselves through humanitarian and philanthropic contributions to society, the school said.

Zelensky of course cannot be present in person to accept the degree. Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia Iryna Mazur will accept on his behalf. She called him “a world hero who became a symbol of unity against Russian aggression.”

Manor College, located on Fox Chase Road, is a private, Catholic institution that offers two- and four-year degrees to 750 students of all faiths and backgrounds. It bills itself as the only accredited college in the United States founded by Ukrainian religious women, and it remains close to those roots.

The Sisters of Saint Basil the Great came to Philadelphia to care for Ukrainian American orphans in 1911, and established the college in 1947. They wanted to give young women of Ukrainian ancestry a chance to pursue their learning at a place that honored their heritage.

Since the war broke out, the school has collected $50,000 to aid Ukrainian humanitarian causes, started a scholarship program to help Ukrainian refugee students, and held a weekly support group for students dealing with anxiety.

A Manor spokesperson said the school would join at least 15 other colleges and universities around the nation in granting honorary degrees to Zelensky. And that those schools, which include Bard College in New York state, Adrian College in Michigan, and Chatham University in Pittsburgh, have invited others to join them.

“History is on the side of Ukraine and President Zelensky,” Peri said. “It’s important for the community to know that authoritarianism must not be allowed to encroach on democratic, westernized, civilized society.”