Honorary Degrees and Commencement Speakers | Office of the President | The University of Vermont(title)

Members of the University of Vermont community are invited to submit nominations of potential honorary degree recipients for consideration by the Honorary Degree Advisory Committee. Commencement Speakers are selected by the president, who may consult with the Honorary Degree Advisory Committee.

Honorary Degrees

The committee, appointed by the president, identifies those candidates who best meet the established criteria and provides recommendations to the president. Honorary degrees are awarded at the May commencement ceremony.


To be eligible for consideration for the award of an Honorary Degree, a nominee must be recognized as accomplished in at least one of three areas:

  • Outstanding achievement or service for the benefit of the University of Vermont
  • Outstanding achievement or service for the benefit of the State of Vermont
  • Outstanding achievement or service in the nation or the world

Of particular importance is to identify Honorary Degree candidates who have achieved distinction in endeavors aligned with institutional goals and strategic priorities.

Additional considerations include:

  • Sustained and dedicated commitment to public life and service
  • Significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge
  • Significant contribution to the University’s ability to achieve its mission

Honorary degrees may not be given to current faculty, staff, members of the Board of Trustees, or current holders of political office. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the President.

Nomination Information

Note: The University of Vermont only awards one Honorary Degree in a recipient's lifetime. In order to determine if your nominee was a past recipient, please review the Past Honorary Degree Recipients List (PDF).

The 2024 nomination process has been completed. The May 2024 commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients will be announced later this spring.

The 2025 nomination process opened on February 26, 2024. All nominations must be received by Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

Make a nomination

Nominations must be complete in order to be considered. It is imperative that nominations are kept confidential. Nominees selected for the 2025 Commencement Ceremony will be announced by the President in spring 2025. The Honorary Degree Advisory Committee may consider nominees in following years without resubmission.

For more information, please contact Chief of Staff to the President Jonathan D'Amore:

Phone: 802-656-7855
Email: jonathan.damore@uvm.edu

Celebrating our graduates

Commencement is a celebration of the outstanding work of the entire university community through the academic year. In particular, it is a tribute to our newest graduates, and a recognition of outstanding faculty and alumni.

University of Vermont Commencement

Commencement Speakers

Recommendations for commencement speaker may be sent via email to Jonathan D’Amore, Chief of Staff to the President, at Jonathan.DAmore@uvm.edu.

For further information regarding this process, please view the University Operating Procedure for Honorary Degrees and Commencement Speaker (PDF).

Notable past commencement speakers include:

  • Garry Trudeau, cartoonist 
  • Malcolm S. Forbes, economist/publisher.
  • Elliot Richardson, former U.S. Attorney General
  • Jimmy Breslin, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony-winning performer.
  • Jody Williams, UVM graduate and 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
  • David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
  • Jon Kilik, UVM graduate/film producer 
  • David Mamet, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter
  • John Lewis, civil-rights pioneer
  • Julia Alvarez, author, National Medal of Arts winner
  • Winton Marsalis, musician
  • Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio journalist
  • Gail Sheehy, author
  • James Fallows, journalist
  • Alexander Nemerov, American art historian
  • Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president
  • Erik Weihenmayer, first blind summiter of Mount Everest
  • Sethuraman Panchanathan, U.S. National Science Foundation director