Honorary Degree Policy


The University of Iowa, with the approval of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, confers Honorary Degrees to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary achievements in such areas as research, scholarship, education, artistic creation, social activism, human rights, innovation or invention beneficial to society, and humanitarian outreach. 

The following general principles shall apply to the selection process:

  • The degree should be awarded in honor of extraordinary achievement over an entire career and not merely to recognize a single achievement;
  • Recipients of the degree shall be selected by a faculty committee and approved by the Provost, President, and Board of Regents, as required;
  • The degrees awarded shall be called: Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorary Doctor of Science, Honorary Doctor of Laws, or as appropriate to the individual being honored.  The relevant college should be consulted about the title of the degree;
  • Current employees of the university and individuals holding elected government office are not eligible, but honorary degrees may be awarded to former employees and former elected officials who meet the criteria.
  • Philanthropy may not be the sole or main criterion for awarding an honorary degree, but may be taken into account as a factor when considered by the Honorary Degree Selection Committee. Nominations where philanthropy or the possibility of future endowments are the main focus will not be considered. 
  • The award will not be conferred posthumously. 

Honorary Degree Selection Committee Procedures

Nomination packets should be sent to the Honorary Degree Selection Committee and be comprised of:  a one- to two-page statement or letter outlining the nominee's achievements and must be accompanied by four letters of support, at least two of which must come from faculty members of the appropriate college. Letters of support should be limited to two pages.

The Honorary Degree Committee is convened by the Executive Vice President and Provost (or their designee) and is comprised of the following voting members:

  • Five associate/full professors selected by the Faculty Senate to ensure ethnic and gender balance.
  • Two associate/full professors selected by the Provost.
  • An ex-officio designee from the Provost’s Office.

The Faculty Senate Committee on Committees shall appoint the chair of the Honorary Degree Selection Committee from the list of seven faculty appointees.

Committee members serve for three years, but initial appointments are staggered to ensure continuity and overlap of terms.

If a conflict of interest arises on the committee (e.g., a member is also one of the nominators or has a personal relationship with the nominee), members must recuse themselves from the deliberations and vote.

The Chair will challenge any inappropriate discussion of nominees where information is not relevant. 

2017 CLAS commencement ceremony - processional