Nomination Process

The Honorary Degrees Committee invites you to nominate distinguished individuals to be considered for an honorary degree, the highest award that the University of Southern California confers. Awarded annually at the spring commencement ceremony, the honorary degree is given:

  1. to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public;
  2. to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part;
  3. to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene; and
  4. to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.

Any USC faculty, staff, student, alumni member, or USC Trustee may nominate a potential candidate. An individual’s nomination need not come from someone in his/her academic area, and we also welcome nominations of persons with distinguished accomplishments outside of conventional academic fields. The Committee is particularly interested in candidates from diverse backgrounds, and whose own accomplishments might serve to highlight areas in which the University has developed exceptional strength.

After review by the Honorary Degrees Committee, a group of nominees of outstanding distinction and accomplishment are recommended to the President of the University, who then forwards a slate for approval to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees and the full Board of Trustees.

The following questions should be answered in the nominator’s summary statement:

  • What is the specific content of the nominee’s contribution?
  • What is original about that contribution?
  • Of all possible contributors to the field of endeavor, why is this nominee of exceptional merit?
  • Why is the field of the nominee especially appropriate to USC?


Under no circumstances should the nominee be informed that his or her name has been put forward. Not all excellent candidates can be recognized, and knowledge of a failed nomination can be embarrassing and harmful. Further, the nominator should not solicit letters of support on behalf of the nominee from people outside the University. A nomination including letters from outside sources will be disqualified. Official notification of the University’s wish to confer an honorary degree upon an individual is made by the President on behalf of the Honorary Degrees Committee and the Board of Trustees.

The Committee must work one year in advance of the specific Commencement for which it is making its recommendations. For example, nominations received and reviewed throughout the 2018–2019 academic year are ranked at the March 2019 meeting and the top nominees are forwarded to the President for the May 2020 Commencement.

Nominations should be submitted to:
Chair, Honorary Degrees Committee
c/o Office of the Provost, ADM 102
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019

To ask a question about honorary degrees, please contact Gordon Alemao at (213) 740-2101 or

  • Honorary Degrees

    Office of the Provost, ADM 102
    University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019
    Telephone: (213) 740-2101