As early as 1940 Smith College attempted to award Mother Mary Joseph an Honorary Degree. She accepted the invitation in 1940 only to withdraw because of pressing work in China.
She had another reason for withdrawing: her request to accept the honorary degree was refused by the local Bishop because Smith was not a Catholic college. She replied, in part, to the Bishop: "Strangely enough, God used Smith College as the instrument through which my vocation to foreign mission work materialized and naturally it has a warm place in my heart."
Smith in 1943 again invited her to Commencement to accept the honor, but illness prevented her from traveling.
Finally in 1950 the College's offer was able to be accepted and Rogers came to Northampton for her honorary degree.
Rogers was awarded her honorary degree with the words of this citation: "She has been well named 'one of the first ladies of the Catholic Church in America.' As a young woman her faith inspired a sense of dedication to humanity and a clear vision for translating that dedication into the service of mankind. She founded the first American community of Catholic foreign mission Sisters. She guided this Order of Maryknoll Missions during a third of a century and has helped to mould it into a great organization which extended the Christian faith and provided material aid to thousands of unnamed men and women throughout the Orient, in the islands of the Pacific, and among her own people in the United States."