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To James B. Conant
January 21, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Dr. Conant:1
I am deeply grateful for the decision of the Governing Boards of Harvard University to confer upon me the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. I sincerely hope that you and your associates will understand my reasons for declining this high honor. Shortly after our entry into the war I came to the conclusion that it would not be advisable for me to accept any honorary degrees so long as the war continues.
If at some later and more peaceful time your Governing Boards should see fit to honor me with such an award, I would of course be happy to accept, but that will necessarily be determined by the course of future events.
Please express to the officials of the University my full appreciation of the honor they proposed to pay me, with most sincere regrets that I do not feel free to accept this distinction.2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. A member of Marshall’s staff (H. Merrill Pasco) drafted the chief of staff’s reply to the president of Harvard University. On January 15 Dr. Conant wrote to inform General Marshall that the Governing Boards of Harvard University had voted to confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on Commencement Day, June 28, 1945. (Conant to Marshall, January 15, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
2. In March 1946, Dr. Conant again wrote to Marshall that he was invited to accept the honorary degree on June 6, 1946. General Marshall declined because he would be in China. (Conant to Marshall, March 5 and 18, 1946; Marshall to Conant, March 20, 1946, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].) General Marshall eventually received the honorary degree at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, at which time he gave his speech proposing the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan).
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 38-39.