Honorary Doctoral Degrees

Nomination packages are accepted throughout the year. All instructions for lead nominators are below. 



An honorary doctorate is granted for the purpose of recognizing those persons who exemplify the ideals of the University of Kentucky through sustained achievement and distinction of national or international significance.

The University Joint Committee on Honorary Degrees solicits nominations for degrees to be awarded at the May and December Commencements. A complete nomination package (described below) is required in order for the Committee to consider a nominee. The Committee will take into account the criteria, principles, and guidelines approved by the elected Faculty Senators (11/13/2006) and Board of Trustees (4/24/2007) in the selection of honorees, as indicated below.

Nominations are accepted year round. Nominations usually take 4 to 12 months to make their way through the selection process, depending on the time of year the nomination is submitted and whether other nominees have already been selected for conferral at subsequent commencements. The number of Honorary Doctoral Degrees to be awarded per academic year is limited to five.   



In awarding Honorary Degrees, the University accomplishes several purposes: It pays tribute to those whose life and work exemplify professional, intellectual, or artistic achievement. It recognizes and appreciates those who have made significant contributions to society, the state, and the University. It highlights the diverse ways in which such contributions can be made and it sends a message that principles, values, and contributions are important. Well-chosen honorees affirm and dignify the University’s own achievements and priorities.

Honorary degrees may be conferred upon those who have achieved distinction through outstanding intellectual or creative achievements, or through outstanding leadership in education, business, or public service.


Eligibility Guidelines

  1. The honorary degree shall be awarded to recognize only exceptional accomplishments as outlined in the above principles. The nominee‘s special achievement or contribution to society shall be the fundamental consideration and shall be evaluated without regard to the nominee‘s attainment of influential position or financial status.
  2. The nominee shall have gained distinction worthy of recognition extending well beyond his/her own field of endeavor and geographical area of activity.
  3. Although it is recognized that it is desirable for the nominee to have a tie to the University of Kentucky or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, such a connection shall not be a requirement.
  4. As long as the nominee clearly meets the criteria, his/her selection shall not be affected by the number of previous similar honors received.
  5. Former faculty and staff of the University of Kentucky shall meet the same criteria as other nominees; current faculty and staff are not eligible.
  6. Elected or appointed officials of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall not be eligible as honorary degree candidates during their terms of office.
  7. Except on special occasions or in unusual circumstances, the number of honorary degrees awarded at any given ceremony shall be limited to four.
  8. The honoree must be present to receive the honorary degree.
  9. The honorary degree shall be conferred at one of the regular university graduation ceremonies or at a special assembly or convocation.

Nomination Requirements

Please include the following items in the nomination package:

  • A cover page listing the primary contact person for the nomination, including address, phone number, email and a list of supporting materials included in the nomination package;
  • A letter of nomination setting forth the nominee's qualifications relative to the principles stated above;
  • Curriculum Vitae or Bio/professional resume or summary;
  • A minimum of two letters of support in addition to the primary letter of nomination;
  • Optional additional information which the nominator deems appropriate.

A complete nomination package is required for the nomination to be considered by the University Joint Committee on Honorary Degrees. Incomplete nominations will not be considered. 

Nominations must be uploaded as a single pdf (reduced-size file, if necessary) here.  

NOTE: If you have trouble uploading the file or you get an error message, please email the file directly to morris.grubbs@uky.edu or mail it to the address below. Nominees selected by the University Joint Committee on Honorary Degrees are forwarded to the University Senate for consideration by elected Faculty Senators. Decisions are not released to the public until after a vote by the Board of Trustees. Nominators may not receive notification until the process is complete.

Please direct inquiries to

Dr. Morris Grubbs, Assistant Dean
The Graduate School, University of Kentucky, 103 Ezra Gillis Building, Lexington, KY 40506
Phone: (859) 257-9725

Past Recipients (PDF)

Senate Rule on Honorary Degrees (PDF)

AR on Honorary Degrees (PDF)