Committee on Honorary Degrees

Committee Purpose

Each year, Northwestern awards Honorary Degrees to a number of men and women of exceptional accomplishment. Past recipients include scholars, artists, actors, writers, musicians, politicians, and social leaders.


To guide it in its work, the Committee on Honorary Degrees has adopted the following criteria for reviewing nominations:

  • Honorary degrees at Northwestern are awarded principally to those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of teaching, learning, research, writing, and performance in the arts. In limited numbers, however, those who have achieved distinction through their special contributions to society at large or more specifically to Northwestern University and its community are appropriate candidates.
  • Achievement or accomplishment of national or international significance should be the overriding criterion for all recipients, except those who are being honored for service to our community. A recipient should be one who will lend distinction to the University.
  • Special efforts should be made to identify candidates whose most important contributions are on the cutting edge of discoveries or accomplishments in their field at the time of selection.
  • It behooves the University to recognize the distinction of its own graduates.
  • As a matter of course, current members of the faculty at Northwestern or those who have retired from the faculty are not normally considered, nor are the members of the Board of Trustees or of the University administration, except in the case of a retiring president or chairman of the Board.
  • The University should be careful that the awarding of a degree not be politically motivated or appear to be so.

Submitting Nominations

Each spring the faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees seeks nominations for the following year. Any person may make a nomination. Nominations should include a:

  • letter of recommendation stating in some detail the reasons for the nomination
  • curriculum vitae
  • brief biography

Broad support from a department or group of faculty will strengthen the nomination. The quality of the supporting materials is very important, since the members of the Committee cannot be assumed to have independent knowledge of each candidate's achievements. The materials submitted serve as a basis for evaluating the qualifications of a nomination. Materials should be sent via e-mail to: or by postal delivery to:

Secretary, Committee on Honorary Degrees
Office of the Provost
Rebecca Crown Center

Nominating letters should be received no later than August 31 of the year prior to the year in which the degree might be awarded.

Review and Approval of Nominations

Recommendations of the Committee on Honorary Degrees are reviewed and voted on by the Faculty Senate each fall. The Senate then transmits its recommendations to the Board of Trustees for final approval. Once the Board of Trustees approves the recommendations from the Faculty Senate, formal invitations are issued to the individuals. 

Honorary Degrees are conferred at Commencement ceremonies. Recipients must be present in order to receive the award.

2015-2016 Committee Members