Ralph Jordan Jr. awarded honorary doctorate during summer commencement ceremonies

Published: August 10, 2021

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One of Auburn University’s grandest honors was bestowed during summer commencement ceremonies on Friday, Aug. 6, when Ralph Jordan Jr.—the son of legendary Auburn football coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan—received an honorary Doctor of Science from the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

The special accolade marked just the 159th time in the university’s more than 160-year existence that an individual was selected for the distinction. Jordan’s degree was unanimously approved by the Auburn Board of Trustees in its April meeting as a reward for his “exceptional service leading to improved quality of life and service to humanity.”

Jordan—who earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from Auburn in 1970 and a master’s degree in zoology from the university in 1975—worked as a non-game and endangered species biologist with the Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, and was responsible for the natural resources management of its public lands and ensured the continued compliance with federal legislation, including the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Environmental Policy Acts. He was honored with the TVA’s Bronze Honor Award.

“Auburn is in my blood, and this is the highest honor I could possibly receive,” Jordan said. “I’m just very appreciative and humbled. I look at the list of previous honorees, and they are outstanding people, a lot of whom I knew. I just try to come close to measuring up to them and what they accomplished in their lives.”

He gave a lifetime of service to Auburn through his leadership in the Auburn Alumni Association from 2006-08, the Office of Development, the Athletics Advisory Board and the College of Sciences and Mathematics Leadership Council, where he was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. In 2013, alongside other members of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, helped establish the Biodiversity Learning Center, a resource that houses Auburn’s Museum of Natural History and continues to promote biodiversity, conservation and the preservation of Alabama’s natural resources.

Nelda Lee—Auburn’s second woman to graduate with an aerospace engineering degree—gave the commencement address, encouraging graduates to make their lives great three-act plays and to be unafraid of failure as they progress through their journeys.

All totaled, 1,406 graduates participated in the two-day commencement celebration, including 344 master’s degrees, 144 doctorates and 13 specialist degrees. The remaining 905 were bachelor’s degrees.

Jay Gogue performing the the hooding ceremony for Ralph Jordan Jr.

Auburn President Jay Gogue performed the hooding ceremony for Ralph Jordan Jr., who was awarded an honorary doctorate of science during Friday night's commencement celebration at Auburn Arena. Auburn Board of Trustees member Clark Sahlie, right, read the official decree as College of Sciences and Mathematics Dean Nick Giordano, center, looked on.