Guidelines on Honorary Degrees

Honorary Degrees Nominations

Rutgers University invites nominations from any member of the university community or the public. A committee considers the nominations of individuals to receive honorary degrees. The President presents a final slate of candidates for review by the Board of Governors’ Committee on Academic and Student Affairs, which then makes a final recommendation on the honorary degree candidates to the full Board of Governors for their approval.

Criteria for Awarding an Honorary Degree by Rutgers University

The nominee for an honorary degree from Rutgers University:

  1. Must evidence outstanding achievement in the humanities, arts, or sciences, or in a profession; in government, public affairs, education, or religion; in industry or commerce; or in an auxiliary field or endeavor.
  2. Must evidence distinguished service and performance in their accomplishments that support the ideals of Rutgers and serve as an example to our students, our alumni, and society.
  3. Must evidence in their life a commitment of service to humankind.

Honorary degrees will be bestowed by the President, the Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor and the Rutgers University–Newark Chancellor at their commencement ceremonies, or by the President, or a designee, at other ceremonies or special events. Degrees may be awarded in four categories based on the specific criteria listed below:

Doctor of Laws

Distinguished service to state or to nation, to learning or to humankind, coupled with intellectual gifts and moral qualities that entitle the recipient to rank with persons of culture and high principle.

Doctor of Letters or Doctor of Fine Arts

Distinguished service to letters, art, music or education, coupled with intellectual and moral qualities that are widely recognized.

Doctor of Science

Distinguished service to science, coupled with personal qualities and a kind of learning that entitles the recipient to recognition by a learned educational body of high standing.

Doctor of Humane Letters

Distinguished service of a general nature, coupled with personal qualities and a kind of learning that entitles the recipient to recognition by a learned educational body of high standing.


Nomination information submitted will be kept confidential. Confidentiality at all points in the nominating process is crucial. No discussion concerning nominees should take place outside of those directly involved in the evaluation process. The President, or a designee, is responsible for contacting the candidates once the Board of Governors has approved a slate of candidates.


At Rutgers, honorary degrees are not awarded posthumously, unless the offer has been made and accepted prior to the individual’s death. Also, honorary degrees are not awarded to the following:

  • Current faculty or staff
  • Current holders of political office, except that an honorary degree shall be awarded to the Governor of the State of New Jersey in the year the Governor takes office 
  • Current university governing board members, except that an honorary degree shall be awarded to the Chair of the Board of Governors at the conclusion of their term as chair of the Board

Except in extraordinary circumstances, persons who have spent the greater part of their careers as members of the Rutgers faculty or administration will not be considered. However, persons otherwise associated with the university such as alumni, former governors and trustees, or distinguished visiting faculty will be considered.

Exceptions to these procedures may be made at the discretion of the President and the Board of Governors.

The Nomination Process

Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis and should be forwarded to the Secretary of the University. If you have nominated someone in the past and would like that person to be reconsidered, please submit a current nomination for the individual. Nominations must be made using the standardized Honorary Degree Nomination Form.  Nominators should include with their nomination form, a curriculum vitae, if available, and biographical information and any other supporting materials (please provide actual documentation and not website links). A well-written nomination form is often more persuasive than a lengthy curriculum vitae.