Past Honorary Doctoral Degree Recipients

and Commencement Speakers

Honorary Degrees and Abbreviations:

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.



  • Raj Chetty, LHD, William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard University; Director of Opportunity Insights; recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal
  • Michael Greenberg ’76, P’14, ScD, Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School; renowned for discoveries in activity-dependent gene transcription shaping brain development and plasticity; current research on experience-dependent behavioral plasticity and neurological diseases
  • Imani Perry, LittD, Henry A. Morss, Jr. and Elisabeth W. Morss Professor of Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African American Studies at Harvard University; Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute; scholar focused on the history of Black thought, art, organizing, and imagination


  • Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, LittD, Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence and professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University; fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study; author; transgender activist
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, LittD, Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard; author; speaker; winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award in 2008
  • Larry McHugh, LHD, former president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
  • Donna S. Morea ’76, P’06, LHD, executive in the IT services and software communities; Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus; 2006 Wesleyan Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient


  • Dr. Joseph J. Fins ’82, LHD, physician, bioethicist, and academic; E. William Davis, Jr. MD Professor of Medical Ethics, professor of medicine, and chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College, Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus
  • Freeman A. Hrabowski III, ScD, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, writer, and advocate for underrepresented groups studying STEM
  • Gloria Steinem, LHD, political activist, feminist organizer, and writer


  • Reginald Dwayne Betts, LittD, author, founder and director of the Million Book Project
  • Catherine Coleman Flowers, ScD, MA, environmental health advocate, rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, senior fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and member of the board of directors of the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Scott Gottlieb '94, ScD, MD, physician, public health and policy advisor and advocate


  • Jacqueline Woodson, author 
  • Bradley Whitford theater, television, and film actor, political advocate
  • Rev. Dr. William Joseph Barber II, DMin, pastor and social justice advocate
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  • Saidiya Hartman ’84, LittD, writer, Columbia University professor
  • Hazel V. Carby, LittD, Yale University professor and director of the Initiative on Race, Gender and Globalization
  • Edwin C. Sanders II ’69, LHD, founder of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church


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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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1989 Inauguration of William Chace

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • John William Ward ’63, President, Amherst College


  • Willard M. Wallace ’34, Wesleyan professor


  • Pauline Kael, Movie Critic


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


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


  • 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


  • 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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  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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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