Honorary Degree

The honorary degree is the highest award conferred by the University of Minnesota. An honorary degree may be awarded to an individual who has achieved acknowledged eminence in cultural affairs, in public service, or in a field of knowledge and scholarship. Nominees cannot be a current member of the University faculty or staff or a sitting Regent, but retirees are eligible. Nominees need not have been educated at or otherwise associated with the University. Honorary degrees are not awarded to encourage or reward financial contributions to the University.

The University of Minnesota awards the following honorary degrees:

  • Doctor of Humane Letters, for cultural contributions
  • Doctor of Laws, for public service
  • Doctor of Science, for contributions to knowledge


Must be a current member of the faculty or staff or an alumnus or alumna of the University.

Nominations must be submitted in the following format:

  • Letter from Nominator: should focus on personal knowledge of the nominee's career accomplishments and reputation.
  • Letter from Dean, Chancellor, or Vice President: demonstrating support for the nomination. (Note: The dean, chancellor, or vice president may serve as the nominator.)
  • Supporting Letters: at least three, not more than five from the nominee's peers in and outside the University, requiring at minimum one from outside the university; again, these should focus on personal knowledge as above. These are in addition to the letter from the nominator and the letter from the dean, chancellor, or vice president (the dean, chancellor, or vice president may serve as the nominator).
  • Nomination Summary: 250 words or less, restricted to outlining the nominee's accomplishments, excluding degrees and appointments (see sample citations).
  • Outstanding Accomplishments: one-page summary highlighting the individual's accomplishments.
  • Dossier: not more than 25 pages.
  • Biographical Information: not to exceed five pages and to include current mailing address, email address, and telephone number, date and place of birth, education, employment, membership in professional societies, honors and awards, professional and public service, consulting activities, etc. Must contain full biographical information on the nominee and document in detail the particular achievements that are the basis for the award.
  • Selected Publications of Nominee (if applicable): not to exceed five pages (if not applicable, five more pages are allowed for biographical information).
  • Contact Information: separate document with contact information for nominee, nominator, dean, chancellor or vice president, and persons writing supporting letters. Include the mailing address, email address, and phone number for each person (if University employee, use University contact information).

Nomination Submission

Submit to the honors committee of the appropriate college/unit, if one exists. The nomination is then forwarded to the Senate All-University Honors Committee. If a college/unit does not have an honors committee, the nomination should be submitted directly to the Senate All-University Honors Committee, c/o Vickie Courtney, at uawards@umn.edu.

Nominations must be submitted as a single PDF file with the email subject line “Nomination Submission to the Senate All-University Honors Committee.”


This process is confidential. No disclosure is to be made to the nominee or others. A nomination approved by the Senate All-University Honors Committee is submitted to the president and, finally, to the Board of Regents for approval. Once the Board of Regents has made a decision and the nominee has accepted, the award is no longer confidential. Nominators should make sure that others involved are aware that the nomination process is confidential.

Additional Information

  • Persons writing letters of nomination should know that their letters will be legally available to the nominee upon request, even to an unsuccessful candidate who becomes aware of the nomination. Nominators should also make sure that writers of supporting letters are aware that their letters, too, will be available on request.
  • The Senate All-University Honors Committee may reject a nomination either for lack of merit or for lack of adequate documentation. In the latter case the nomination may be revised and re-submitted.
  • In general, award and citation costs are borne by University Awards and Honors, award ceremony costs by the nominating unit, and travel expenses by the awardee. Units sponsoring honorary degrees are encouraged to provide travel support when funds are available.

If you have any questions about the nominating process, please contact Vickie Courtney, director, University Senate Office and University Awards and Honors, at 612-625-4805 or courtney@umn.edu.

Helpful Links

Nomination Deadlines

Nomination Submission Deadlines for 2020-21

  • September 23, 2020
  • November 16, 2020
  • February 17, 2021
  • March 24, 2021

It is recommended you allow at least six months from the time you begin the process to the time the award is presented. To help you determine the date to submit a nomination, see table with nomination submission deadlines, and for each submission deadline, the committee meeting date the nomination would be considered, and if approved by the committee, the meeting date the nomination would be considered by the Board of Regents.