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To be considered for an honorary doctorate degree, there are specific criteria that individuals must meet, and there are a variety of doctorate degrees that they may be awarded. There are also many non-honorary doctorate degree options that require advanced education.

Recipients of honorary doctorate degrees do not earn the degree through academic achievements; rather they receive these awards based on generous and altruistic actions or lifetime accomplishments that benefit a community, nation, or humanity in general. Some schools allow candidates to apply for consideration for the degree, while others require nomination by a third party. Each university that confers honorary degrees establishes its own criteria for acceptance.

Recipients may receive more than one honorary degree, but never from the same school twice. A candidate does not necessarily have to be an alumnus of the awarding school, though many schools prefer to recognize their own graduates or individuals who have made a contribution to the school. Beneficiaries of the prized degree may use the title of 'Doctor' that the degree confers, although they have not completed a doctoral program.


While many colleges and universities provide their own strict criteria for honorary candidates, typically an honorary degree may only be given to an individual with a sustained lifetime achievement, rather than a group or for a single contribution.

By awarding honorary degrees, the University associates itself and its values with individuals remarkable for their achievements, and seeks to inspire students and others to recognize, respect and emulate such persons and such accomplishments.

Nominees should exemplify with distinction elements of the University’s mission is to serve the people of local and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.

Nominees may be eminent scholars, scientists, artists, writers, educators, or other individuals who have advanced their field of endeavor in significant ways. They may also be professionals or other individuals who have made particularly distinguished contributions to society in areas such as public service, business, humanitarian work, the law, government, or the creative arts.

Honorary Degree Types

Depending on the achievement, schools may present different types of honorary doctorate degrees.

  • Doctor of Humane Letters, acknowledging academic distinction
  • Doctor of Laws,awarded to professionals in the field of law
  • Doctor of Science,recognizing revolutionary scientific research and discovery
  • Doctor of Fine Arts, conferred primarily to musicians, actors, architects, and artists
  • Doctor of Divinity, bestowed upon exceptional religious figures


The University strives for a robust pool of honorary degree recipients enriched by individuals from all backgrounds. Nominations from academic units, including departments, programs, schools and colleges, are particularly encouraged, as are nominations from other campus groups and organizations.

The range of nominations should reflect the University’s absolute commitment to diversity as expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status, as well as diversity in the spectrum of thoughts and ideas.

Nominations for honorary degrees should fall in at least one of the following three categories:

  • High profile individuals who could serve as the commencement speaker;
  • Individuals who have distinguished themselves as an academic and/or intellectual; and,
  • Individuals who have distinguished themselves in public and/or community service to our community and/or our larger society.


The nominee should not be informed that his or her name has been put forward, and the nominator should not solicit letters of support on behalf of the nominee. Not all excellent candidates can be recognized, and knowledge of a failed nomination can be embarrassing and harmful. Official notification of the University’s wish to confer an honorary degree upon an individual is made by the President on behalf of the University.