ALFRED, N.Y. (AP) — At least 17 colleges and universities in several states will jointly offer honorary degrees to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their spring commencement ceremonies.

Alfred University says the idea grew from the western New York university’s request to have Zelenskyy speak virtually to a combination of graduating classes. Though that request was denied, the institutions agreed to award honorary degrees in absentia to honor Zelenskyy’s leadership in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Several other upstate New York campuses have committed, along with institutions in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Alfred University says others are expected to join in.