Policy on the Awarding of Honorary Degrees

An honorary degree is one of higher education’s most significant accolades. It is the policy of Georgetown University to award honorary degrees on a selective basis to distinguished individuals who merit special recognition for genuine achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the mission of the University. Only the Board of Directors may authorize the award of an honorary degree. The Board’s power to do so is codified in Article II, Section 1.2 of the Bylaws of the President and Directors of Georgetown College.


A. An honorary degree may be awarded to a person who satisfies the following criteria:

  • Eminence, in the course of a career, in some field of scholarship, in public service, or in an artistic, literary, governmental, religious, financial, or other endeavor; and
  • An adequate reason for recognition by Georgetown University, in the form of an association or relationship with the University or a nexus between the individual’s achievements and the mission or life of the University.

B. In recognition of Georgetown University’s commitment to gender equality and social, economic, national, racial, and cultural diversity, the Board of Directors is committed to the award of honorary degrees to recipients who reflect the diversity of interests, backgrounds, and concerns reflected in the University community and the society and world served by the University.


A. The following persons or constituent components of the University are authorized to nominate candidates to receive honorary degrees:

  • The President
  • Georgetown College
  • The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • The School of Medicine
  • The Law Center
  • The School of Nursing and Health Studies
  • The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
  • The Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business
  • The School for Continuing Studies
  • The McCourt School of Public Policy

B. In the case of any nomination forwarded to the President which has not been approved by the faculty in the Executive Councils of the schools or campuses, the President would consult with the President of the University Faculty Senate. Before any nomination (other than a nomination from the President) is forwarded to the Board of Directors, the nomination shall be approved by the President and the Provost or appropriate Executive Vice President. While the number of nominations is not limited, except under unusual circumstances when the Board of Directors determines otherwise, an individual school shall not award more than two honorary degrees at a single commencement exercise.

C. The Executive Committee  of the Board of Directors shall review all nominees and shall forward its recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board shall not award an honorary degree to any nominee who is not the subject of an affirmative recommendation by the Executive Committee.

D. Any nomination of an honorary degree candidate (or alternate candidates) to receive the degree at a school’s commencement exercises in May should be placed on the Board of Directors meeting agenda for the October regular meeting preceding that May ceremony. Schools may propose both a primary candidate and one or two alternate candidates in October in order to avoid returning to the Board with a new slate at a later date, should the school’s first candidate be unable to attend the ceremony or accept the degree. Only in extraordinary circumstances will the Executive Committee convene a special meeting to consider a candidate on behalf of the full Board of Directors.

Expiration of the Board’s Approval

A school may award an honorary degree to an approved candidate at any time within two years of the Board’s granting of that approval. After that time, the school must again secure the Board’s approval of the candidate in order to award the honorary degree.

Prohibition on Fees and Honoraria

Except under unusual circumstances when the Board of Directors determines otherwise, an honorary degree recipient shall not receive a speaker’s fee or honorarium for accepting an honorary degree or delivering a commencement address or the equivalent.

Presence at Commencement or Other Official Ceremonies

No honorary degree shall be conferred unless the recipient is present.

Approved May 11, 2000
Amended October 9, 2014


Honorary Degree Recipients