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Honorary Degrees

University of Pennsylvania

Honorary degrees are important statements of Penn's values and aspirations and we strongly encourage your participation in this process.

Honorary Degree Process

The Office of the University Secretary manages the honorary degrees process at Penn. 

All members of the University community are welcome to submit nominations.  All nominations are confidential and potential nominees should not be contacted directly.  Review is ongoing and candidates may ultimately be selected several years after their initial nomination.

The University Council Honorary Degrees Committee, with a membership of faculty, staff and graduate and undergraduate students, is charged with reviewing nominations from the fields of scholarship and academic achievement and advising the Trustee Committee on Honorary Degrees and Awards.  The Trustee Committee considers recommendations from the Council Committee as well as other sources and makes final selections.  

The list of previous University of Pennsylvania honorary degree recipients.

It is University policy not to consider Penn standing faculty, trustees, or school and center overseers for honorary degrees.  

Penn emeritus faculty are eligible to receive honorary degrees through a special nomination process by University Deans.

    2018 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Andrea Mitchell, CW’67


    Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News; Host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” MSNBC

    2018 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    More about Andrea Mitchell

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Sylvia Earle


    Marine biologist, oceanographer, and author; Founder of Mission Blue and the Sylvia Earle Alliance

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Sylvia Earle

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Freeman Hrabowski


    Scholar of education and President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    More about Freeman Hrabowski

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Elihu Katz

    Distinguished Trustee Professor Emeritus of Communication, Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Elihu Katz

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Yannick Nézet-Séguin

    Music Director, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair, Philadelphia Orchestra; Music Director Designate, Metropolitan Opera, New York

    Honorary Doctor of Music

    More about Yannick Nézet-Séguin

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Peggy Noonan

    Author, political and cultural commentator; The Wall Street Journal columnist

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    More about Peggy Noonan

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    Scholar of American history and the history of women; 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    More about Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    2018 Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Hamdi Ulukaya

    Entrepreneur and philanthropist; Founder, Chair, and CEO of Chobani

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    More about Hamdi Ulukaya

    Honorary Degree Qualifications

    Candidates should exemplify the highest ideals of the University, which seek to educate those who will change the world through innovative scholarship, scientific discovery, artistic creativity and/or societal leadership. Please note that Penn does not offer Honorary Degrees posthumously or in absentia.

    Nominations for Honorary Degrees

    Nominations should explain how nominees meet the criteria for selection and outline the nominees’ achievements and contributions; Please include as much biographical and other supporting information as possible, but do not contact the nominees. The nomination process is confidential and nominees should not know that they are being considered.  We particularly encourage nominations from fields which have not been recognized by the award of honorary degrees in recent years. 

    For general purposes, field of consideration for honorary degree nominations are as follows:

    • Arts and Culture
    • Business
    • Education
    • Entertainment and Media
    • Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Public Affairs (government, law)
    • Scholarship/Academia
    • Science, Technology and Medicine
    • Other