Honorary degrees are important statements of Penn's values and aspirations and we strongly encourage your participation in this 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 can be found at https://secure.www.upenn.edu/secretary/honorary.html.

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. 


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 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