Honorary Degrees

What do such notables as the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Coretta Scott King, Elie Wiesel, Christiane Amanpour, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Aaron Copland, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Margaret Chase Smith have in common? They all are among an elite group of individuals who have been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Rhode Island since 1941.

Each year the URI Honorary Degree Committee invites community members to nominate candidates for honorary degrees to be conferred at the Commencement Ceremonies. The Honorary Degree recipients are those who have distinguished themselves through important contributions to the University, to the State of Rhode Island, or to the nation — individuals who deserve to be honored by the University and who will bring honor to the University by accepting a URI degree.

The Process

The Honorary Degree Committee considers all nominations that have been received each year from the University community and the public. The General Faculty Committee and the parameters considered are described in the 11th Edition of the University Manual, section 5.60.10.

The Committee submits nominees to the president for consideration. With his support, the president submits candidates for approval by the Rhode Island Board of Education. These individuals are therefore approved to receive the doctoral degree, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. One of the nominees may be considered by the president and invited as a keynote speaker.

How to Nominate Someone

It’s easy, but your submission must be as complete as possible to provide the Honorary Degree Committee with all of the information needed to consider in evaluating candidates.


All nominations received are considered confidential and the Committee recommends and asks that the names of candidates who have been nominated remain confidential. Their names should only be known to those who join in writing letters of reference on behalf of the nominated candidate. When the entire process is complete, the Honorary Degree recipients are announced by the president to the University Community and the media.

Past Recipients

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