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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.

    Bryan Stevenson

    Public interest lawyer and author; Founder and Executive Director, The Equal Justice Initiative which in 2018 created the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice

    Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctor of Laws

    More about Bryan Stevenson

    Jon Bon Jovi

    Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, founder of the band Bon Jovi; Chair, Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation; 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee

    Honorary Doctor of Music

    More about Jon Bon Jovi

    Temple Grandin

    Advocate, public speaker, and author; Professor of Animal Science, Colorado State University

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Temple Grandin

    Richard Lugar

    Six-term United States Senator (retired); President, The Lugar Center; Recipient, Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Honorary Doctor of Laws

    More about Richard Lugar

    Denis Mukwege

    Gynecological surgeon and human rights activist; Founder, Panzi Hospital and the Panzi Foundation; 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Denis Mukwege

    Laurie Olin

    Landscape architect, teacher, and author; Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture (retired), School of Design, University of Pennsylvania; Recipient, National Medal of Arts

    Honorary Doctor of Arts

    More about Laurie Olin

    Neville Strumpf

    Advocate and expert in care of older adults; Professor of Nursing (retired) and Interim Dean, 2000-2001, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Neville Strumpf

    Jill Cornell Tarter

    Astronomer; Former Director, Center for SETI Research; Bernard M. Oliver Chair, SETI Institute

    Honorary Doctor of Sciences

    More about Jill Cornell Tarter

    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