To guide its work, the Committee on Honorary Degrees has adopted the following criteria for reviewing nominations. Honorary degrees at Northwestern are awarded to those who:
- Have distinguished themselves in the fields of teaching, learning, research, writing, and performance in the arts; or who have achieved distinction through their special contributions to society at large or more specifically to Northwestern University and our community.
- Have achieved national or international significance. This should be the overriding criterion for all recipients, except those who are being honored for exceptional service to our community. All recipients of Honorary Degrees should lend distinction to Northwestern University.
- Have accomplished cutting edge discoveries in their field at the time of selection. Special efforts should be made to identify these candidates.
- Have graduated from Northwestern. It behooves the University to recognize the distinction of its own graduates.
- Are ethically considered. Care should be taken to ensure that the awarding of a degree does not appear to be politically motivated.
- Are representative of our inclusive community. Northwestern University and the Committee strongly advocate for consideration of individuals who reflect our values of diversity and inclusion.
Those individuals who are not eligible to receive an honorary degree include:
- Current or retired members of the faculty at Northwestern.
- Members of the Board of Trustees or of the University administration, except in the case of a retiring president or chairman of the Board.
Each spring the faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees seeks nominations for the following year. Any person may make a nomination. Nominations should include a:
- A letter of recommendation stating in detail the reasons for the nomination (this is completed through the online submission form)
- If available, a curriculum vitae or brief biography statement
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.
All nominations for Commencement 2021 should be submitted through the online nomination form and should be received no later than February 1, 2020.
Review and Approval of Nominations
Recommendations of the Committee on Honorary Degrees are reviewed and voted on by the Faculty Senate in late spring. The Senate then transmits its recommendations to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees for final approval. Once the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees approves the recommendations from the Faculty Senate, formal invitations are issued to the individuals. The final decision of the Honorary Degrees recipients to invite for the Commencement ceremony will be made by the President. Any other approved names who are not invited during the year they were nominated will carry forward to the following year for full consideration.
Honorary Degrees are conferred at Commencement ceremonies. Recipients must be present in order to receive the award.