Honorary Degree


The honorary degree is the highest award granted by the University and constitutes recognition of distinctive achievement that has added materially to knowledge and to the betterment of society. Honorary degrees may be awarded to individuals who have 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


The nominator must be a current member of the faculty or staff; or a member of the alumni. Anonymous proposals and self nominations will not be considered.

Selection Process
The All-University Honors Committee manages the process and submits recommendations to the president, who makes recommendations to the Board of Regents.

Nomination Dossier
It is important that the nomination dossier tells a complete and compelling story of the nominee. Toward that effort, make sure that the dossier demonstrates the nominee’s achieved acknowledged eminence in cultural affairs (Doctor of Humane Letters), in public service (Doctor of Laws), or in a field of knowledge and scholarship (Doctor of Science).

Nomination dossiers should not exceed 25 pages in length. 

Format of Nomination Dossier
The eight documents described below should be submitted as a single PDF in the following order:

  1. Nomination letter
  2. Letter from campus leadership demonstrating support for the nomination
  3. Supporting letters
  4. Nomination summary
  5. Outstanding accomplishments
  6. Biographical information for the nominee
  7. Selected publications of nominee (if applicable)
  8. Contact information

Nomination letter: should focus on the nominee's career accomplishments and reputation.

A letter from campus leadership demonstrating support for the nomination:

  • For all nominations from the Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester campuses, the letter would be from the chancellor. 
  • For nominations from academic units on the Twin Cities campus, the letter would be from the dean of the nominating college.
  • For nominations coming from non-academic units on the Twin Cities campus, the letter would be from the unit’s vice president. 

(Note: In each of the above cases, the chancellor, dean, or vice president may serve as the nominator.)

Supporting letters: at least three, but not more than five, from the nominee's peers in and outside the University, requiring a minimum of one from outside the University; again, these letters should focus on the nominee's career accomplishments and reputation as noted above. These letters are in addition to the letter from the nominator and the letter from the chancellor, dean, or vice president (again, the chancellor, dean, or vice president may serve as the nominator). 

Please refer to this document if you have specific questions regarding how many letters to include in your nomination dossier.

Nomination summary: 250 words or less, restricted to outlining the nominee's accomplishments, excluding degrees and appointments. Should your nominee be granted an honorary degree, the nomination summary you provide will be used to draft the official citation given to the nominee (see samples of official completed citations).

Outstanding accomplishments: one-page summary highlighting the individual's accomplishments.

Biographical information for the nominee: 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, persons writing supporting letters, and the award event contact person should the award be granted to the nominee. Include the preferred mailing address, email address, and phone number for each person listed above.


Submit to the honors committee of the appropriate college/unit, if one exists. The nomination is then forwarded by the campus honors committee to the All-University Honors Committee. If a college/unit does not have an honors committee, the nomination should be submitted directly to the All-University Honors Committee, c/o Erin Heath, at [email protected].

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


During the nomination process, no disclosure is to be made to the nominee or others. Efforts will be made to maintain confidentiality with respect to the nomination process, consistent with applicable law.


  • The 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 Erin Heath, director, University Senate Office and University Awards and Honors, at [email protected] or 612-625-4805.