Carnegie Mellon University

Commencement Weekend

May 18-19, 2019

Honorary Degree Nominations

Members of the Carnegie Mellon University community are invited to nominate deserving candidates for honorary degrees, which will be bestowed at the main commencement ceremony. An honorary degree from Carnegie Mellon is one of the highest distinctions the university bestows upon an individual, and awarding them is a long-standing tradition. Nominations are welcome from students, staff, faculty and alumni.

Honorary degree recipients are an inspiration to the Carnegie Mellon community, especially to the graduating students. They add luster to the commencement ceremony by underscoring the importance of the university in the world and honoring those who have made an impact in the arts, business, computer science, engineering, humanities, policy, sciences or social sciences.

Nomination Criteria

Nominees for an honorary degree must be distinguished individuals who meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • achieved pre-eminent levels of distinction in their fields and demonstrated extraordinary achievements, preferably those associated with educational, research or performance programs at Carnegie Mellon;
  • demonstrated respect and appreciation for the responsibilities of citizenship and service to society; or
  • an extraordinary lifetime of service to Carnegie Mellon University that has had a demonstrable positive impact on the university and its community.

Please note that it is the university's practice to honor public servants and political leaders only after their terms of office have ended. In addition, with rare exceptions, the committee does not consider nominations of current Carnegie Mellon faculty, staff, students or trustees. 

Past Speakers and Honorees


Keynote Speaker

  • David Tepper, President & Founder, Appaloosa Management, L.P.
    (also received an honorary degree)

Honorary Degree Recipients

  • Ted Danson, Actor, Ocean Advocate
  • Shafi Goldwasser, Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, Professor of Computer Science University of California, Berkeley
  • Ada Yonath, The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology; Director, The Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly, Weizmann Institute of Science


Keynote Speaker

  • Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
    (also received an honorary degree)
Honorary Degree Recipients
  • Mahzarin R. Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Vivian Davidson Hewitt (MM 1944), Retired Chief Librarian, Art Collector and Distinguished Awards Recipient
  • Michael Keaton, Actor
  • Bernard Osher, Founder and Treasurer, The Bernard Osher Foundation


Keynote Speaker

  • Earl Lewis, president, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
    (also received an honorary degree)

Honorary Degree Recipients

  • Holly Hunter (A 1980), actress/producer
  • Robert S. Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sonia Manzano (A 1972), actor/author
  • James R. Swartz (TPR 1966), founding partner, Accel Partners
Contact University Events for a complete history.