The University of Memphis

Awarding the Honorary Degree


Issued: April 21, 2008
Responsible Official: Provost
Responsible Office: Provost

Policy Statement

Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University of Memphis to authorize the awarding of honorary degrees on a selective basis to distinguished individuals. These individuals will merit special recognition for extraordinary achievements that have improved the community they serve, contributed to society, as well as benefited the University of Memphis.



The purpose for awarding honorary degrees is threefold:

  1. To honor persons whose careers reflect sustained exceptional achievement in some field of scholarship, in public service, or in an artistic, literary, governmental, financial, professional, research, leadership, cultural affairs, or other endeavor. 
  2. To advance the educational mission, goals, and programs of the University of Memphis by developing associations with persons who embody the same ideals, values, and aspirations. 
  3. To inspire students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and members of the local, national, and world communities to emulate such standards of excellence, integrity, and commitment to enhance the public good.


Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is chaired by the Provost and comprised of the Faculty Senate President, the Staff Senate President, the Student Government Association President, as well as three faculty members appointed by the University President who will serve for a two year term.


Candidates for an honorary degree may be nominated by any member of the University community. Nominations for the academic year are due by the middle of November of that academic year. 

Criteria for Selection

An honorary degree is only awarded in exceptional circumstances. No more than two awards per year should be given by the University of Memphis. No individual will be allowed to receive more than one honorary degree from the University of Memphis.

In recognition of the University of Memphis’ commitment to gender equality and social, economic, national, racial, and cultural diversity, the Selection Committee is committed to the awarding of honorary degrees to recipients who reflect the diversity of interests, backgrounds, and concerns reflected in the University community and the society and world served by the University.

Current faculty, staff, and regents of the Tennessee Board of Regents are not eligible for honorary degrees. Faculty, staff, and regents who have been separated from the Tennessee Board of Regents at least five years are eligible. Currently elected or appointed public officials are not eligible. Current candidates or nominees for public elective or appointed offices are not eligible. Current or prospective benefactors of the University of Memphis are not eligible, unless they meet criteria outlined in the Purpose for Awarding Honorary Degrees of this policy.

Recognized earned doctoral degrees shall not be awarded as honorary degrees. In general, the recognized honorary degrees are Doctor of Law (LL.D.), Doctor of Letters (Litt. D.), Doctor of Science (Sc.D.), and Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) should be used, although appropriately titled degrees could be used to recognize achievement in specific professions.        

Nominations must include:

  1. A letter of nomination from the primary nominator, including:
  • A summary of the distinguished contributions made by the nominee as defined in the Purpose for Awarding Honorary Degrees of this policy.
  • The nominator’s relationship with the candidate, and any perceived potential conflicts of interest.
  • An indication of the extent to which the nominee has been associated with the University of Memphis

    During the Selection Committee's deliberations of the nominees, additional documents may be requested:

    1.    The nominee’s vita.

    2.    Three letters of recommendation from within or outside of the university explaining why the candidate is worthy of an honorary degree from the University of Memphis.

    3.   Any additional information.

The first meeting of the Selection Committee in any academic year shall be held as soon as possible following the nomination deadline. Material on nominees will be distributed to all members of the Committee in advance of that meeting. The Committee shall meet as often as appropriate in order to complete its work.
  All deliberations by the Selection Committee will be confidential. The Selection Committee should use intense scrutiny of a nominee to insure continued integrity of the award process. A minimum of 4 members of the Selection Committee must vote to approve each recommendation for that nominee to be selected for submission to the president. By the middle of January, the Selection Committee will then submit the list of candidates to the President for consideration.


The president of the University of Memphis must approve any candidate for the honorary degree.


Public announcement of the award is to be handled exclusively through the Office of the President.

Time of Awards

Honorary Degrees will be conferred at Commencement.

Expiration of the Committee’s Approval

If an honorary degree nominee has been approved, but not awarded an honorary degree after three years, the individual must be re-nominated for the award.

Prohibition on Fees and Honoraria

Except under unusual circumstances, an honorary degree recipient shall not receive a speaker’s fee or honorarium for accepting an honorary degree or delivering a commencement address or the equivalent.

Presence at Commencement or Other Official Ceremonies

No honorary degree shall be conferred unless the recipient is present.

Revision Dates

  UM1648 - Revised: April 21, 2008
Originally Issued: May 18, 2005

Subject Areas:

AcademicFinanceGeneralHuman ResourcesInformation TechnologyStudent Affairs