Honorary Degrees

Every year, honorary degrees are presented at Commencement to individuals selected by the Faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees and approved by the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees. In awarding honorary degrees, the University seeks to recognize deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals for exemplary service to the deaf and hard of hearing community.

At Gallaudet's 145th Annual Commencement on Friday, May 15, 2015, Dr. Vincent G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, Inc., was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Dr. Douglas Watson, professor of Rehabilitation Education and Research Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and Communication Disorders at the University of Arkansas, received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Dr. Catherine Anderson and Dr. William J. A. Marshall were named Professor Emeriti by the Board of Trustees.

A list of all past honorary degree recipients recipients is at 


Nominations for 2017

Criteria for Honorary Degree Nominations

In July 2010, the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees adopted new standards and procedures for the award of honorary degrees. These standards and procedures are available here. Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis. Nominations received by the deadline date, endorsed by the Faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees, and recommended through the Office of the Provost to the President will be submitted to the Board of Trustees ahead of their February Board meeting to be given in May of the following year, i.e., 15 months in advance.  

Each nominee must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Individuals whose significant personal, social, cultural, scientific, or professional achievements have positively increased public awareness of deaf and hard of hearing people, nationally or internationally, and whose values inherently are reflected in the Gallaudet University mission;
  2. Individuals with exemplary records of academic and/or public accomplishments in line with Gallaudet University's standards for academic rigor, quality, and significance.
  3. Persons whose leadership or originality in significant human endeavor has been with distinction, with preference to those whose accomplishments came first in a particular field of endeavor.
  4. Individuals who have served as role models for deaf and hard of hearing people through their extensive leadership and public service.

Nomination Procedure

Nominations for honorary degrees will be accepted on an ongoing basis.  The deadline for receipt of nominations for 2016 was Friday, October 31, 2014, and nominations are now closed. Nominations for 2017 are being accepted, with a deadline date of Monday, November 9, 2015. 

Honorary degree nominations

Supporting material for each nomination shall include:

  • a completed nomination form for 2017 [Word] [PDF],
  • a supporting letter describing how the nominee meets the purpose of the honorary degree,
  • documented evidence of the nominee's achievements and his/her impact on deaf and hard of hearing people,
  • the nominee's curriculum vitae, or information that would ordinarily be included in a curriculum vitae.
  • names and contact information of three references who will be asked in confidence by the Faculty Committee on Honorary Degree to comment on the qualifications of the nominee.


Please email the Office of the Provost, or call 202-250-2071 videophone.

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