Past Honorary Doctoral Degree Recipients

and Commencement Speakers

Honorary Degrees and Abbeviations:

DD – Doctor of Divinity; LHD – Doctor of Humane Letters; LittD – Doctor of Letters
LLD – Doctor of Laws; ScD – Doctor of Science; DFA – Doctor of Fine Arts

The Commencement speaker is noted with italics.

2010s

2018

  • Anita Faye Hill, LLD, educator, social commentator
  • Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, ScD, scientist, entrepreneur, Board chair emeritus

2017

  • Claudia B. Rankine, LittD, writer
  • Jo Handelsman, ScD, scientist, educator
  • Cristina Jiménez Moreta, LHD, activist on behalf of immigrants

2016

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, LittD, Professor of Philosophy and Law, NY University
  • Patricia Lee Smith, DFA, Writer, performer, Visual Artist
  • Bryan Stevenson, LHD, Founder and CEO, Equal Justice Initiative

2015

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda '02, LHD, Composer-lyricist, Actor
  • Michael P. Price, LHD, Retired Exec. Director, Goodspeed Musicals
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum '75, P'04, LHD, President, Spelman College, Emerita

2014

  • Helena Kraemer, ScD, Professor of Biostatistics in Psychiatry
  • Theodore M. Shaw '76, LLD, Advocate for Equity and Inclusion
  • Hayden White, LHD, Theorist of History

2013

  • Majora Carter '88, LHD, President, Majora Carter Group (Urban revitalization strategist)
  • James Dresser '63, P'93, LHD, Former Board Chair, Trustee Emeritus
  • Joss Whedon '87, LittD, Writer, Director, Producer

2012

  • Michael Bennet '87, LLD, United States Senator
  • Glenn Ligon '82, DFA, Artist
  • Cecile Richards, P'13, LHD, President, Planned Parenthood of America

2011

  • Barbara N. Cook, DFA, Soprano Soloist and Broadway Performer
  • Paul E. Farmer, ScD, Co-founder, Partners in Health, MD, PhD
  • Alberto Ibargüen '66, P'97, LLD, Chief Executive Officer, Knight Foundation
  • Jean Adams Shaw P'79, LHD, Retired Director, Wesleyan Center for the Arts
  • Ralph H. "Biff" Shaw II '51, P'79, LHD, Retired CEO, Shaw Belting & Farmers/Mechanics Bank

2010

  • Stanley Cavell, LittD, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Harvard
  • John Hickenlooper ’74, MA'80, LLD, Mayor, City of Denver
  • Ruth Simmons, LittD, President, Brown University
  • Richard K. Winslow ’40, P'71, LittD, Professor of Music, Emeritus
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2000s

2009

  • Jennifer Alexander ’88, P'15,'16, LHD, Community Leader/Children and Economic Development
  • Mark Masselli, P15,'16, LHD, Community Leader/Health Care
  • Azim Premji P'99, LHD, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
  • Anna Quindlen P’09, LittD, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Columnist

2008

  • Jamaica Kincaid, LHD, Author
  • Senator Barack Obama, LLD, United States Senator, Democratic Presidential Nominee
  • Morton Schapiro, LLD, President, Williams College
  • Philip Trager ’56, P’81, DFA, Photographer, Attorney

2007

  • Jewel Plummer Cobb, P'79, ScD, Research Biologist
  • Alan M. Dachs ‘70, P'98, LHD, Trustee Emeritus and Chair Emeritus
  • Jim Lehrer, P'85, LHD, NewsHour Anchor
  • Nobutaka Machimura, LHD, Former Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Thomas Malone, ScD, Environmentalist
  • Rosa DeLauro, LHD, United States Congresswoman

2006

  • John Hope Franklin, LittD, Professor of History, Emeritus, Duke
  • Mary O. McWilliams ’71, LHD, President, Regence BlueShield, Trustee Emerita

2005

  • William Barber, P'85, LittD, Andrews Professor of Economics, Emeritus
  • William "Bill" Belichick ’75, P’07, '15, LHD, Head Coach, New England Patriots
  • Amy Gutmann, LittD, President, University of Pennsylvania
  • Edward P. Jones, LHD, Author, Pulitzer Prize 2004

2004

  • William Donaldson, LHD, Chairman, US Securities & Exchange Commission
  • Yuri Kochiyama, LHD, Social Justice Activist
  • Njabulo Ndebele, LittD, Author/Vice Chancellor University of Cape Town
  • Robert Schumann '44, LHD, Businessman, Philanthropist

2003

  • Doreen Freeman P’77, LHD, Adminstrator Freeman Foundation
  • Yusef Komunyakaa, Doctor of Arts, Pulitzer Prize Poet
  • Jody Williams, LHD, Nobel Peace Prize/ICBL Founder

2002

  • William Manchester, LittD, author
  • Walter Massey, LHD, President, Morehouse College
  • Martha Nussbaum, LittD, Professor of Law and Ethics
  • Stuart F. Silloway ’29, P’59, GP’91 LHD, Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus

2001

  • Evelyn Fox Keller, LittD, Professor of History, MIT
  • Tom Gerety, LHD, President, Amherst College
  • Bernice Johnson Reagon, LittD, Founder, Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • Edson "Pelé" Arantes do Nascimento, P'01, LHD, International Soccer Player

2000

  • Nancy N. Campbell, MALS'80, LHD, Past Chair National Trust/ Historic Preservation
  • Clint Eastwood, DFA, Actor, Producer, Citizen Activist
  • Rosa L. Parks, LHD, Civil Rights Pioneer
  • Harold Varmus, P'99, ScD, Nobel Prize Laureate/ Medicine
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1990s

1999

  • Thadious M. Davis, LittD, Professor of English, Author
  • Tony Kushner, DFA, Playwright
  • Bill Lann Lee, LLD, Acting Ass't Attorney General, Civil Rights, US Dept of Justice
  • Steven B. Pfeiffer ’69, P'99, '05, '08, '13, LLD, Chair of Wes Board Emeritus, Fulbright & Jaworski
  • Amartya Kumar Sen P'99, Hon. '95, Economist and Nobel Prize Winner
  • K. Barry Sharpless, P'99, '04, ScD, Professor of Chemistry, Scripps Institute

1998

  • Linda Chavez-Thompson, LLD, Exec VP, AFL-CIO
  • David Jenkins ’53, P'78,'81,'83, GP’15 LHD, Trustee Emeritus
  • Stuart Levy, ScD, Microbiologist
  • Sonny Rollins, DFA, Jazz Composer
  • Caroline Walker Bynum, LittD, Historian, Medieval Scholar
  • Oprah Winfrey, Media Executive and Philanthropist

1997

  • Katharina (Kay) Butterfield, LHD, Wife of Wesleyan President
  • Sir Frank Kermode, LittD, Scholar & Literary Critic
  • Bernard Knox, LittD, Classicist and Scholar
  • Jonathan Kozol, LHD, Activist, Teacher, Author
  • Georges May, LittD, Scholar & Author, French Literary Critic
  • Elizabeth Morgan, LHD, Board of Ed, Community Leader
  • Paul Simon, LLD, Former US Senator
  • Anna Deavere Smith, DFA, Actress, Teacher, Playwright and Performer
  • John Woodhouse ’53, LHD, Chairman of Sysco Corp

1996

  • A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., LLD, Retired Federal Judge
  • Jay A. Levy ’60, ScD, Virologist and Researcher, University of CA
  • Jessye Norman, DFA, International Concert Artist
  • Nell Irvin Painter, LittD, Professor of American History, Princeton University
  • John C. Sawhill, ScD, President and CEO, Nature Conservancy

1995

  • Merce Cunningham, DFA, Dancer
  • Paula Giddings, LHD, Journalist, African American Activist
  • Amartya Kumar Sen, P'99, LHD, Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Lamont U
  • Charles Sumner Stone Jr. ’48, LittD, Journalist and Civil Rights Activist
  • Torsten N. Wiesel, ScD, Neuroscientist, Nobel Prize/ Medicine

1994

  • Douglas J. Bennet Jr. ’59, P’87, ’94, LLD, Asst. Secy./State, Former President of NPR
  • Johnnetta Betsch Cole, LLD, President, Spelman College
  • Satoshi Omura, ScD, Pres. Kitasato Inst., Tokyo
  • Lowell P. Weicker Jr., LLD, Governor of CT

1993

  • Peter Brown, LittD, Professor of History, Princeton
  • Gordon P. Eaton ’51, ScD, Dir, Columbia University Lamont Doherty Observatory
  • Houghton Freeman ’43, P’77, LLD, Freeman Foundation, Trustee Emeritus
  • Paul Monette, LittD, Author, Poet
  • Cornel West, LittD, Professor of Religion, Dir. Afro-American Studies, Princeton

1992

  • John Wyllys Baird ’38, P'69, '78, LLD, Trustee
  • Roy R. DeCarava, DFA, Photographer
  • Morris Seligman Dees Jr., LLD, Exec Dir. and Chief Trial Counsel, Southern Proverty Law Ctr
  • Carol Gilligan, LHD, Author, Professor of Education, Harvard
  • Leroy E. Hood, P'92, ScD, Biologist/ Dir Nat'l Science Foundation and Technology Center
  • Martin Charles Scorsese, P'98, DFA, Film Director

1991

  • Corinne Claiborne Boggs, LLD, Fmr Congresswoman
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, LittD, Pulitzer Prize Poet
  • James Pierpont Comer, LHD, Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale
  • Charles Erroll Exley ’51, P'83, GP’00, ’15, LLD, President and CEO, NCR Corp.
  • Quincy Jones, DFA, Musician, Composer, Grammy Awardee
  • Brenda Atkinson Milner, ScD, Professor of Psychology, McGill U
  • Alyce Faye Wattleton, LLD, Pres. of Planned Parenthood

1990

  • Berenice Abbott, DFA, Photographer
  • Jonathan Demme, DFA, Filmmaker
  • Seamus Heaney, LittD, Poet
  • Herbert D. Kelleher ’53, LLD, President and CEO, Southwest Airlines
  • Oscar Lanford ’60, ScD, Mathematician
  • Desmond Tutu, Doctor of Divinity, Archbishop, Nobel Laureate/ Peace Prize
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1980s

1989 Inauguration of William Chace

  • Colin G. Campbell, LLD, President Emeritus, Wesleyan
  • Frank Oakley, LLD, President, Williams College
  • Peter Pouncey, LLD, President, Amherst College

1989

  • John R. Jakobson ’52, P'05, LLD, Trustee Emeritus
  • Paul C. Lauterbur, ScD, Chemist
  • Nathan A. Scott Jr., LHD, Clergyman, Literary Critic
  • Marian Wright Edelman, LLD, President, Children's Defense Fund

1988

  • Gerald Lee Baliles ’63, LLD, Governor of VA
  • Robert M. Ball ’35, MA'36, P'65, LLD, Former Commissioner, Social Security
  • D. Ronald Daniel ’52, P'77, '82, '94, LHD, Businessman/ Trustee Emeritus
  • Sandra M. Gilbert, LittD, Professor of English, Princeton
  • Max Helmut Reihlen ’55, ScD, Dir. Deutsches Institute fur Normung
  • William Zinsser, P'80, GP’17, LittD, Writer/ Editor

1987

  • Bruce Corwin ’62, LLD, Civic Leader
  • William Cosby Jr., P'87, LHD, Entertainer [revoked, 2018]
  • Jim Dine, GP’09, DFA, Artist
  • A. LeRoy Greason ’44, LittD, President, Bowdoin College
  • Ellen A. Peters, LLD, Judge
  • Robert Wilson, ScD, Physicist
  • Ezra Zilkha ’47, P'73,'81, GP’10, ’10, ’16, LLD, Businessman/ Trustee Emeritus

1986

  • Carlo De Benedetti, P'85, LLD, Businessman
  • David Hays, Doctor of Arts, Founder, National Theater of the Deaf
  • Nannerl Keohane, LLD, President, Wellesley College
  • Jehan Sadat, LHD, Educator, Social Activist

1986 Rededication of Olin Library

  • Daniel Boorstin, LittD, Librarian of Congress
  • Robert S. Cohen ’43, LittD, Trustee Emeritus
  • Richard W. Couper, LLD, Trustee Emeritus
  • Bern Dibner, ScD, Businessman and Collector
  • John P. McDonald, LLD, Librarian

1985

  • Reginald Bartholomew, LLD, Diplomat
  • Frank G. Binswanger Sr., P'50,'54, GP’76, ’78, ’83, ’83, LLD, Businessman
  • Maxwell Roach, P'93, DFA, Musician
  • Cicely Tyson, DFA, Actress

1984

  • Natalie Zemon Davis, LittD, Professor of History, Princeton
  • Edward M. Kennedy, P'84, '08, LLD, Senator
  • David G. McCullough, LittD, Author
  • Nicholas J. Turro Jr. ’60, ScD, Professor of Chemistry, Columbia University
  • Walter B. Wriston ’41, LLD, Chairman, Citicorp

1983

  • Alan Alda, P'83, DFA, Actor
  • Harvey B. Gram Jr. ’27, GP’83, LHD, Businessman
  • Terry J. Hatter Jr. ’54, P'92, LLD, Federal Judge
  • Yoshinori Matsuyama, LLD, Educator
  • Toni Morrison, LittD., Author
  • Frederick Mosteller, ScD, Academician

1982

  • John J. Driscoll ’33, MA '34, P'69, LHD, Labor Leader
  • Carlos Fuentes, LHD, Author
  • Earl G. Graves, LLD, Businessman
  • Meg Greenfield, LittD, Writer
  • Grace Paley, LittD, Writer
  • Maarten Schmidt, ScD, Astronomer
  • Robert M.  Solow, LLD, Economist

1981

  • Frank Capra, DFA, Director/ Producer
  • David Halberstam, LittD, Author, Journalist
  • Louisa Kennedy, LHD, Founder of FLAG
  • Max Tishler, GGP’14, ScD, Emeritus Professor of Science, Wesleyan

1981: Sesquicentennial Convocation (September)

  • Mildred Dunnock Urmy DFA, actress
  • John W. Bodine, P'69, '76, GP '96, ’02, '03, '19, LLD, attorney, Wesleyan trustee
  • Elbert K. Fretwell Jr. '44, P'79, LLD, Chancellor, University of North Carolina
  • Gerald Holton '41, MA'42, P'77, LittD, historian of science at Harvard
  • Robert A. Rosenbaum, LittD Wesleyan University Professor of Mathematics and Sciences

1980

  • Philip B. Brown ’44, P'83, LHD, Lawyer, Chair, Wesleyan Board
  • Jill K. Conway, LLD, President, Smith College
  • Ralph W. Ellison, LittD, Novelist, Essayist
  • Louis E. Martin, LLD, Journalist/ Government Service
  • Jean Francois-Poncet ’47, LLD, Foreign Minister of France
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1970s

1979

  • Mansfield Freeman ’16, P'43, LLD, Businessman and Teacher
  • Ella Grasso, LLD, Governor
  • Henry Russell Hitchcock Jr., LHD, Architectural History
  • Elie Wiesel, LHD, Author, Nobel Laureate

1978

  • John Chandler '78, LLD, President, Williams
  • Robert Coles, LHD, Psychiatrist
  • Alan Shestack ’60, DFA, Dir. of Yale Art Gallery
  • Harold Stearns ’21, ScD, Geologist
  • Harold Syrett ’35, LLD, Editor of Hamilton Papers

1977

  • Vernon E. Jordan, LLD, Exec Dir Natl Urban League
  • John U. Monro, LHD, Dean of Freshman, Miles College
  • Maxine  Singer, ScD, National Institute of Health
  • John W. Ward '63, LLD, President, Amherst
  • Richard P. Wilbur, MA '58, LittD, Poet

Honorary Degrees Were Not Awarded Between 1972 and 1976

1976

  • John William Ward ’63, President, Amherst College

1975

  • Willard M. Wallace ’34, Wesleyan professor

1974

  • Pauline Kael, Movie Critic

1973

  • John W. Macy, Jr. ’38, P’75, ’78, ’84, Chairman, U.S. Civil Service, Wesleyan Trustee

1972

  • Carl E. Schorske, P’81, Former Professor, Wesleyan

1971

  • Robert Anderson, LLD, Chair of Board, Atlantic Richfield
  • Kingman Brewster Jr., LHD, President of Yale
  • Charles Gillispie ’40, ScD, Professor of History, Princeton
  • Martha Graham, DFA, Dancer
  • Joseph Melnick ’36, GP’90, ScD, Professor of Virology, Baylor Univ.
  • George Wiley '44, LHD, Exec Dir., National Welfare Rights Organization

1970

  • John Holt, Activist and Author
  • Harold Hugo, Doctor of Humanities, President, Meriden Gravure
  • Theodore Lockwood, LHD, Presiident, Trinity College
  • Roger Tory Peterson, ScD, Ornithologist
  • Robert Penn Warren, LittD., Author and Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Andrew Young, DD, Minister, Exec VP SCLC
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1960s

1969

  • Julian Bond, LLD, Georgia House of Representatives
  • Art  Buchwald, LittD, Newspaper Columnist and Cartoonist
  • William P. Haas, DD, President, Providence College
  • Burton C. Hallowell ’36, MA’38, LHD, President, Tufts, Former Wesleyan Exec VP
  • Lelan F. Sillin Jr., P'77, LLD, President of Northeast Utilities
  • Stewart L. Udall, LLD, Former Secretary of the Interior

1968

  • John C. Bennett, DD, Pres. Union Theological
  • Leonard Bernstein, DFA, Conductor
  • John W. Gardner, LHD, Chair, Urban Coalition, Former Secretary, HEW
  • Murray Gell-Man, ScD, Professor of Physics, Cal Tech
  • Joseph Palamountain Jr., LHD, President, Skidmore
  • John R. Reitemeyer, LLD, President and Publisher, Hartford Courant
  • Charles E. Shain, LHD, President, Connecticut College
  • Monroe E. Spaght, LLD, Chair of Board, Shell Oil

1967

  • Norman O. Brown, LittD, Former Wesleyan Professor
  • Victor L. Butterfield, President of Wesleyan
  • Harry Caplan, LittD, Professor of Classical Language and Literature, Cornell
  • Gilbert H. Clee ’35, LLD, Dir., McKinsey & Co.
  • Emilio Q. Daddario ’39, ScD, Congressman
  • René J. Dubos, ScD, Bacteriologist, Author
  • John W. Macy Jr. ’38, P’75, ’78, ’84, LLD, Chairman, US Civil Service, Trustee
  • Frederick B. Millett ’65, Litt. D, Professor of English, Emeritus
  • Carl E. Schorske, P’81, LittD, Former Professor, Wesleyan

1966

  • William Sloane Coffin Jr., DD, Chaplain Yale
  • Henry Hamill Fowler, LLD, Secretary of Treasury
  • Justin McCortney O'Brien, LittD, Author, Educator
  • Richard Perkin, ScD, President, Perkin-Elmer Co.

1965

  • Edwin D. Etherington ’48, P'84, LLD, Pres., American Stock Exchange
  • Francis Keppel, LLD, Commissioner of Education
  • James K. Mathews, DD, Methodist Bishop
  • Michael Polyani, LLD, Political Economist

1964

  • Mary I. Bunting (Smith), LLD, President, Radcliffe
  • Martin Luther King Jr., DD, Civil Rights Leader
  • Harry F. Lewis ’12, MS'13, LLD, VP, Institute for Paper Chemistry
  • Dwight Macdonald, LittD, Arts Critic
  • R. Sargent Shriver Jr., LLD, Director of Peace Corps
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