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WashU Commencement History

An overview of past speakers and honorary degree recipients at the commencement events of Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri, USA)

Honorary Degrees, 1859 - 2019

Browse the tabs below for the names of honorary degree recipients, and type of degree granted.  Honorary degrees were not given every year, and the number of honorees varies. For information about recipients from recent years please contact Special Collections.

Honorary Degrees granted 1859 - 1889

Nathan D. Tirrell, Master of Arts

1860-1861, none given.

 John Elbridge Sinclair, Philosophy

1863-1865, none given.

Thomas Metcalf, Master of Arts

1867-1869, none given.

William Chauvenet, Laws
John M.Schofield, Laws

1871-1878, none given.

Samuel Treat, Laws

1880-1881, unknown.

John Rutledge Shepley, Laws
Calvin Milton Woodward, Laws

1883-1891, none given.

George A. Madill, Laws

1893-1896, none given.

James Kendall Hosmer, Laws

1898-1899, none given.

Honorary Degrees 1900-1909

Regis Chauvenet, Laws

George E. Leighton, Laws

None given.

None given.

Hugo Munsterberg, Laws

Samuel Cupples, Laws
Gustavus Adolphus Finkelnburg, Laws
David Rowland Francis, Laws
John Green, Laws
Minard Lafever Holman, Master of Arts
Halsey Cooley Ives, Laws
George Edward Jackson, Laws
William Galt Raymond, Laws
Marshall Solomon Snow, Laws
William Taussig, Laws
Calvin Milton Woodward, Laws

Gustav Baumgarten, Laws

Elmer Bragg Adams, Laws
James Bryce, Laws
John Priest Greene, Laws
Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Laws
Richard Henry Jesse, Laws
Henry Pratt Judson, Laws
Gardiner Lathrop, Laws
William Trelease , Laws

Frederick James Volney Skiff, Laws
Walter Barlow Stevens, Laws

None given.

Honorary Degrees 1910-1919

None given.

None given.

Paul Elmer More, Laws

Gilbert Burnet Morrison, Master of Arts
Ben Blewett, Laws
Frederick W.Lehman, Laws
Johan Nordal Fischer Wille, Laws


Harvey Williams Cushing, Science
Simon Flexner, Laws
Otto Folin, Science
William Crawford Gorgas, Laws
Albert Ross Hill, Laws
William Henry Howell, Laws
Abraham Jacobi, Laws
Thomas Caldwell Janeway, Science
Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Laws
Franklin Paine Mall, Laws
Rudolph Matas, Laws
Samuel James Meltzer, Laws
Henry Smith Pritchett, Laws
Otto Hilgard Tittman, Science
George Edgar Vincent, Laws
William Henry Welch, Laws

Theobald Smith, Laws

John William Withers, Laws

Edward Mallinckrodt Laws


Honorary Degrees 1920-1929

Breckinridge Long, Master of Laws

Richard Lewis Lloyd, Master of Science


Lewis Gustafson, Master of Arts
John Carleton Jones, Doctor of Laws






William Keeney Bixby, Doctor of Laws

Honorary Degrees 1930-1939



Bishop William Scarlett, Laws
Dean Walter M. Bartlett, Master of Science
Miss Virginia Stevenson, Master of Arts
Henry J. Gerling, Laws
William Alanson White, Science
Arthur E. Bostwick, Laws
Gerard Swope, Science
Mrs. Newton R. Wilson, Science






Oakes Ames, Science
Gordon J. Laing, Unknown


Honorary Degrees 1940-1949

Edward A. Doisy, Science
Herbert S. Gasser, Laws
Eugene L. Opie, Laws

Gov. Lloyd C. Stark, Laws
Edgar Allen, Science
Walter Kirtland Hancock, Fine Arts



E. H. Connor, Engineering
Malvern B. Clopton, Laws

Frank C. Rand, Laws
Frank J. Bruno, Laws


Harry B. Wallace, Laws
Charles F. Kettering, Science
Charles Allen Thomas,Science

Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., Laws
Archibald MacLeish, Humane Letters
George D. Stoddard, Laws
Lee A. Du Bridge, Science

Wiley Rutledge, Laws
Dr. Vilray Papin Blair, Science
Gov. Phil M. Donnelly, Laws
Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, Literature

Honorary Degrees 1950-1959

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Laws
Luther Ely Smith, Laws
Eugene P. Wigner, Science
Alexander S. Langsdorf, Science
Max Beckmann, Fine Arts

George T. Moore, Science
Fredrich Olsen, Engineering
George B. Wislocki, Science

Wesley Winnas Horner, Engineering
Francis O. Schmitt, Science
Everett Lee DeGolyer, Engineering

Learned Hand, Laws
Lillian Gilbreth, Science
Benjamin M. Duggar, Science
T.S. Eliot, Humane Letters
Charles Belknapp, Laws
Archibald T. Davidson, Letters
Isidor Loeb, Laws
Philip A. Shaffer, Science
Rev. James B. Macelwane, Laws

John Lionberger Davis, Laws
Hodding Carter, Humane Letters
Curtis L. Wilson, Engineering

John Ira Parcel, Science
Allen O. Whipple, Science
Powell Bassett McHaney, Laws

Paul A. Freud, Unknown
Dr. Robert J. Terry, Unknown
Howard Foster Lowry, Unknown
Robert. R Williams, Unknown
William H. Danforth, Unknown [posthumous]
Williams McChesney Martin, Unknown
Merle Fainsod, Unknown

Severo Ochoa, Unknown
R. Buckminster Fuller, Unknown
Senator Paul Douglas, Unknown
Dr. Frederick A. Coller, Unknown


George Holman Bishop, Science
Philip John Hickey, Laws
Leonard Daum Haertter, Laws
Ronald Storey Beasley, Laws
John Raeburn Green, Laws

Honorary Degrees 1960-1969

Ralph Larrabee Gray, Laws
Rolla Eugene Dyer, Science
Gen. Leif Johan Sverdrup, Science
Elmer Ellis, Laws
Mary de Garmo Bryan, Laws

Irving Dilliard, Unknown
Dean Roy S. Glasgow, Unknown

Arthur L. Hughes, Laws
Carroll A. Hochwalt, Science
Robert R. Palmer, Letters

Richard Peter McKeon, Humane Letters
John Merrill Olin, Laws
Herman B. Wells, Laws

Herman M. Kalckar, Science
Richard Purdy Wilbur, Humane Letters

Blanche Frank Ittleson, Humanities
Morton J. May, Laws
Galo Plaza, Laws
Ethan Allen Hitchcock Shepley, Laws
Edward Mills Purcell, Science

Stuart Symington, Laws
Carlyn Wohl(Mrs. David P.Wohl), Laws
Willard Van Orman Quine, Letters
Carl Ferdinand Cori, Science
Manfred Eigen, Science

Etta Eiseman Steinberg, Humanities
Sol Myron Linowitz, Laws
James Albert Michener, Letters
Marianne Craig Moore, Letters
Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington, Music
Warren Henry Cole, Science

Roger Nash Baldwin, Laws
James Marsh Douglas, Laws
Benjamin Emanuel Youngdahl, Laws
Carl Joachim Friedrich, Letters
Eleazar de Carvalho, Music

Mary Wickes, Arts
Thomas Bradford Curtis, Laws
Donald Danforth, Laws
Charles Evers, Laws
Spencer Truman Olin, Laws
J. George Harrar, Science
James A. Shannon, Science
Carl Tolman, Science

Honorary Degrees 1970-1979

Josephine Johnson Cannon, Humane Letters
C. Douglas Dillon, Laws
Leonard Hall, Laws
Whitney Moore Young, Jr., Laws
Lien-Sheng Yang, Letters
Jean Browning Medeira, Music
Barrett Brown James, Science
John Hilton Knowles, Science
Earl W. Sutherland, Jr., Science

Lois Jameson Eliot, Humanities
Thomas Hopkinson Eliot, Humanities
Howard F. Baer, Laws
Henry Chauncey, Laws
George Benjamin Hartzog, Jr., Laws
Paul M. Herzog, Laws
Richard Wall Lyman, Laws
John Ciardi, Letters
Mona Van Duyn Thurston, Letters
Felicia Weathers, Music

Barbara Ward, Humanities
Jessie Louis Jackson, Humanities
George Frederick McMillen, Humanities
Bernhard Blume, Letters
George Evelyn Hutchinson, Science
Wendell Garrison Scott, Science
Antoni Zygmund, Science

Robert Byron Bird, Engineering
Joseph Parker Cosand, Humanities
Eli Goldston, Humanities
Jack H. Hexter, Humanities
Theodore David McNeal, Humanities
Gwendolyn Brooks, Letters
Hallowell Davis, Science
Wallace R. Persons, Jr., Science

Ella Fitzgerald, Fine Arts
Jose De Rivera, Fine Arts
Charles Sommer, Science
Anthony J. Calio, Science
Charles Churchman, Science
Dr. Stephen Kuffler, Science
J. Wesley McAfee, Laws
Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., Laws
Macler C. Shepard, "Undisclosed"

Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt, Humane Letters
John Hope Franklin, Humanities
August Anheuser Busch, Jr., Laws
John Oliver Bayley, Letters
Iris Murdoch, Letters
Carl Gustav Hempel, Science
James Lee O’Leary, Science

Jessie Bernard, Humanities
Maxwell Leo Bohanon, Humanities
Ada Louis Huxtable, Humanities
Charles Irwin Schottland, Humanities
Arthur Frank Burns, Laws
Clark McAdams Clifford, Laws
Irving Edison, Laws
Viktor Hamburger, Science

Morris Carnovsky, Fine Arts
Walter Gellhorn, Laws
Carla Anderson Hills, Laws
Hugh Morris Golster, Letters
Eudora Welty, Letters
James S. McDonnell, Medicine
James Rutherford Fair, Science
John Kyle Gustafson, Science
Martin David Kamen, Science

Robert Halladay Dean, Laws
Ralph Follen Fuchs, Laws
John Jay McCloy, Laws
Margaret Bush Wilson, Laws
Alton Ochsner, Science

Alwin Nikolais, Fine Arts
Germaine Bree, Humanities
Leigh Gerdine, Humanities
Roy Wilkins, Humane Letters
Harold Eugene Edgerton, Science
Samuel Milton Nabrit, Science
Daniel Nathans, Science

Honorary Degrees 1980-1989

Louis Clark Brock, Humanities
Dietrich Gerhard, Humanities
William Edward Simon, Laws
Siegfried Unsfeld, Letters
Phillip Handler, Science
Mildred Trotter, Science
Pindaros Roy Vagelos, Science

Katherine Dunham, Arts
Simon Wiesenthal, Humanities
Edward Thaddeus Foote, II, Laws
Donald Franchot McHenry, Laws
Harold Eugene Thayer, Laws
Leonard Slatkin, Music
Mildred Cohn, Science
Oliver Howe Lowry, Science
Gustav Kurt Mesmer, Science

William Henry Maudlin, Arts
Paul Oskar Kristeller, Humanities
Andrew Felton Brimmer, Laws
Mortin David May, Laws
Arjay Miller, Laws
Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, Science
Lee Hunter, Science
Rita Levi-Montalcini, Science

Merle Kling, Humanities
General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., Laws
Sir John Harold Plumb, Letters
Phillip Mills Arnold, Science
Rosalyn S. Yalow, Science

John Arthur Rassias, Humane Letters
Daisy Lee Bates, Humanities
Bob Hope, Humanities
Leon Richter Strauss, Humanities
John Weller Hanley, Laws
Carlos Fuentes, Letters
Wesley Allison Clark, Science
Eli Robins, Science

Herve Dufrense, Humanities
A . Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Humanities
Phillip Charles Habib, Laws
Sanford Noyes McDonnell, Laws
Hanna Holborn Gray, Letters
Leonard Watson Blake, Science

Helen Manley, Humanities
Ralph Ernest Morrow, Humanities
Klaus Otto August Piper, Letters
Alvin Francis Poussaint, Laws
Paul Simon, Laws
Jarvis Aydelotte Thurston, Humane Letters
Paul Adolph Volcker, Laws

George Howard Capps, Lawsv William George Hyland, Laws
Gurpreet Singh, Laws
Eugene Myron Brickler, Science
Grace Murray Hopper, Science
Samuel Isaac Weissman, Science

Carroll Dean Henry Behrhorst, Humanities
Marva Nettles Collins, Laws
Thomas Francis Eagleton, Laws
Robert Joy Glaser, Science
Jack Leonard Strominger, Science
August Wilson, Letters

Joseph Bernard Ervin, Humanities
Helen Frankenthaler, Fine Arts
Henry Eugene Hampton, Humanities
Seymour Solomon Kety, Science
Howard Allen Schneiderman, Science
Sondra Judith Stang, Letters

Honorary Degrees 1990-1999

Bernard Becker, Science
Frankie Muse Freeman, Humanities
William Lester Hadley Griffin, Laws
Walter Eugene Massey, Science
Ian Robert Maxwell, Letters
Gyo Obata, Fine Arts

Purnell Whittington Choppin, Science
Roland Harry Coase, Laws
Thomas M.Graber, Science
Stanley Frank Musial, Laws
Howard Stanley Nemerov, Letters
Helen Hennessy Vendler, Letters
Clifton Reginald Wharton, Jr., Laws

Marian Wright Edelman, Humanities
A.E. Hotchner, Humane Letters
Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee, Laws
Edward C. Stone, Jr., Science

Russell Lincoln Ackoff, Science
Stanley Cohen, Science
Stanley L. Lopata, Laws
Sybil Collins Mobley, Humane Letters
Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Laws
Harold Allen Ramis, Arts
Peter H. Raven, Science

Bill Bradley, Humanities
Rita Frances Dove, Letters
Richard Erskine Leakey, Science
Jane Loevinger, Humane Letters
Isadore Erwin Millstone, Laws
Ernst Ludwig Wynder, Science

Johnneta Betsch Cole, Humane Letters
Elizabeth Gray Danforth, Humanities
John Claggett Danforth, Doctor of Laws
Edwin Gerhard Krebs, Science
Edward George Pake, Science

Jane Alexander, Fine Arts
James Edwin Darnell, Jr., Science
Charles F. Knight, Science
Chia-Wei Woo, Science

William Hamilton Daughaday, Science
George Eberle, Jr., Humanities
Geoffrey Winston Russell Palmer, Laws
William Kwang-Yeh Tao, Science
Mildred Marie Winter, Humanities

Floyd Elliot Bloom, Science
August Adolphus Busch, III, Humanities
Lynn Cooper Harvey, Humanities
Ronald James Himes, Arts
Edgar Desmond Lee, Humanities
George F. Will, Letters

William H. Danforth, Philosophy
Alvin Goldfarb, Humanities
Phillip Needleman, Science
Patricia Scott Schroeder, Humanities

Honorary Degrees 2000-2009

Julian Bond, Laws
Michael M. Karl, Science
Yuan-Tseh Lee, Science
Lee Marvin Liberman, Humanities
Mary Miss, Fine Arts
Alvin Jerome Siteman, Humanities

Rita Rossi Colwell, Science
Jerome Rockhold Cox Jr., Science
Robert Furchgott, Science
Lucy Mayer Lopata, Humanities
Brian Allen Stevenson, Humanities
Jack Crawford Taylor, Humanities
William Moore Van Cleve, Laws

Sam Fox, Laws
Ruth J.Simmons, Humanities
Harry Curtis Stonecipher, Science
Earl Ernest Walker, Science

Madeleine Korbel Albright, Humanities
Herman Nathaniel Eisen, Science
Douglass C. North, Science
Osborne E. Smith, Humanities
William Paul Stiritz, Humanities
Blanche M. Touhill, Humanities

Thomas L. Friedman, Laws
David Morris Kipnis, Science
Theodore McMillan, Humanities
Robert Mowbray Walker, Science
Edith Waldman Wolff, Science

Richard A. Gephardt, Humane Letters
Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Humanities
Robert Gayle Roeder, Science

Anna Eriko Crosslin, Humanities
J. Stephen Fossett, Science
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Humane Letters
John F. McDonnell, Science

Henry Givens, Jr., Humanities
Paul Harvey, Journalism
Tim Russert, Humane Letters
William S. Sly, Science
Shirley M. Tilghman, Science

Lee Seng Tee, Humane Letters
Christopher J. Matthews, Humane Letters
Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, Humane Letters
Egon Schwarz, Humane Letters
Jessie Lamoin Ternberg, Science

Robert L. Virgil, Jr., Laws
Robert H. Waterston, Science
Patty Jo Watson, Humane Letters

Honorary Degrees 2010- 2019

Steven Chu, Science (Commencement Speaker)
Brian J. Druker, Science
Joanne Knight, Humanities
Richard A. Roloff, Laws
Nelson S. "Strobe" Talbott, Laws

Elie Wiesel (Nobel laureate), Humane Letters
John H. Biggs, Humane Letters
Shirley Ann Jackson, Science
Griffin P. Rodgers,Science
George W. Von Mallinckrodt, Laws

C. Ronald Kahn, Science
David M. Becker, Humane Letters
Donald M. Suggs, Humane Letters
Gloria M. Steinem, Humane Letters
Mike Peters, Humane Letters
Richard J. Mahoney, Science

Cory A. Booker, Law
Marilyn Fox, Humanities
Martin L. Mathews, Humanities
Juhani Pallasma, Art and Architecture
Peter Rosen, Science
Howard Wood, Laws

Henry W. Bloch, Humanities
Temple Grandin, Humanities
Vivian W. Pinn, Science
David E. Robertson, Humane Letters
Tony La Russa, Humanities
Diana Chapman Walsh, Science

Ken Burns, Humanities
Gerald D. Fischbach, Science
Herbie Hancock, Letters
Mary-Dell Chilton, Science
Susan A. Talve

Stephen F. Brauer, LL.D.
Paula Kerger, L.D.H.
Jan Staffan Normark, D.Sc.
John R. Lewis, L.D.H. (Commencement Speaker)
Euclid Williamson, D.H.

John William Bachmann, LL.D.
Gary Gerard Braun, L.D.H.
Thomas Fearn Frist, Jr., L.D.H.
Anna Quindlen, L.D.H. (Commencement Speaker)
David Lloyd Steward, LL.D.
Virginia Verral Weldon, D.Sc.

Eric D. Green, D.Sc.
Chris Krehmeyer, L.H.D.
Michael L. Lomax, L.H.D.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, LL.D.(Commencement Speaker)
Francis G. Slay, L.H.D.
Arthur Peter Mutharika, L.H.D (September 30, 2018)

Carol Bruns Bauer, L.H.D.
George Peter Bauer, L.H.D.
Michael R. Bloomberg, LL.D. (Commencement Speaker)
Theresa Carrington, D.H.
Wayne D. Fields, L.H.D.
Joseph E. Madison, LL.D.
Charles M. Rice, D.Sc.

Honorary Degrees 2020-

No Honorary Degrees were awarded in 2020 because the full Commencement Ceremony was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, (Commencement Speaker) Humanities
Christopher S. Bond, Laws
Richard H. Hemholz, Laws
Gerda Weissmann Klein, Humanities
Stuart A. Kornfeld, Science
Shannon Watts, Humanities