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Honorary Degrees

Honorary Degrees
Office of Academic Affairs, GFS 315
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1695
Telephone: (213) 821-4400



Past Recipients

May 2011

Steven A. Ballmer, Doctor of Humane Letters. Chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation and the first business manager hired by Bill Gates. Mr. Ballmer delivered the commencement address.

Ann E. Dunwoody
, Doctor of Humane Letters. Current commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command (AMC), one of the largest commands in the army with more than 70,000 employees. In 2008 Ms. Dunwoody became the first woman in the history of the U.S. military to achieve four-star rank.

Ming Hsieh, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC trustee and alumnus who is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Mr. Hsieh earned two degrees from USC before founding AMAX Technology in 1987 and Cogent Systems in 1990. He has distinguished himself as a dedicated supporter of the Viterbi School of Engineering through his naming of the USC Department of Electrical Engineering and as a visionary proponent of collaborative research through the creation of the Ming Hsieh Institute for Research on Engineering-Medicine for Cancer.

Girish Karnad, Doctor of Humane Letters. One of a group of writers who collectively reshaped Indian theater as a national institution in the second half of the twentieth century. He has received numerous honors for his work, including the Jnanpith Award, Indiaís most prestigious literary award.

Albie Sachs, Doctor of Humane Letters. Served for 15 years as a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Mr. Sachs has a long history of human rights activism, and was at various times imprisoned, exiled and attacked for his work on behalf of the unjustly persecuted. During his time on the court, Mr. Sachs helped abolish the death penalty and overturn the laws criminalizing homosexuality. In 2005, he wrote the opinion in the courtís ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Harald zur Hausen, Doctor of Humane Letters. German virologist who discovered the role that the human papilloma virus (HPV) plays in causing cervical cancer. His discovery led to the development of the HPV vaccine, introduced in 2006. His contributions to the advancement of science earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008.

May 2010

William J. Bratton
, Doctor of Laws. L.A.’s former police chief.  Law enforcement executive whose innovations and leadership reduced crime in three major American cities. Builder of bridges between the L.A.P.D. and the city’s diverse communities.


John Hood, Doctor of Humane Letters. Visionary leader in higher education and in global business. Former vice chancellor of the University of Auckland and of the University of Oxford.


Ting-Kai Li, Doctor of Science. Professor, physician, and pioneering scientist. Influential scholar and national health advisor who transformed societal attitudes about alcoholism as the first researcher to demonstrate its genetic roots.


Festus G. Mogae, Doctor of Humane Letters. Past president of Botswana.  Tireless leader in building his country into a model of democracy and good governance, and in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.


Esa-Pekka Salonen, Doctor of Music. Preeminent composer, conductor, and advocate of contemporary music. Principal conductor and artistic advisor of the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra. Former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

May 2009

Anita K. Jones, Doctor of Science. Professor, computer scientist, and former federal director of defense research and engineering, Jones' insightful leadership paved the way for USC's Institute for Creative Technologies.

Elena Poniatowska, Doctor of Literature. Renowned journalist and influential and award-winning author, Poniatowska is a steadfast champion of the marginalized and underserved peoples of Mexico.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor of Humane Letters. Visionary leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and internationally known actor, Schwarzenegger is California's 38th governor. He delivered the commencement address.

Frances Wu, Doctor of Humane Letters. Social worker and founder of the Chinese-American Golden Age Association, Wu is a long-time advocate for older Americans and a distinguished USC alumna and benefactor.

May 2008

Sweet Alice Harris, Doctor of Humane Letters. Founder and executive director of Parents of Watts, Sweet Alice Harris has dedicated her life to mentoring youth and providing assistance to people who are disadvantaged or underserved.

Robert Iger, Doctor of Humane Letters. A distinguished executive in the entertainment industry, Robert Iger is president and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company as well as a steadfast supporter of the arts. He delivered the commencement address.

Norman Lear, Doctor of Humane Letters. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts and creator of several groundbreaking television shows, Norman Lear is a distinguished producer as well as a successful businessman and philanthropist.

Harlyne J. Norris, Doctor of Humane Letters. Philanthropist and USC trustee Harlyne J. Norris has distinguished herself through her generosity and guidance to USC and numerous organizations that support children, health care, medical research, education, and the arts.

May 2007

Ted Koppel, Doctor of Laws. A member of the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the recipient of countless awards, Ted Koppel is one of journalism's most honored figures. He delivered the commencement address.

Arvid Carlsson, Doctor of Science. Nobel Prize holder Arvid Carlsson discovered the role of dopamine in the brain and explored pharmacological treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Clint Eastwood, Doctor of Humane Letters. Iconic actor and a two-time Academy Award winning director, Eastwood is also a composer and film producer. Eastwood is as popular with audiences as he is with critics.

Joyce Kennard, Doctor of Laws. A three-time USC alumna, Joyce Kennard has served for nearly two decades on the California Supreme Court, where she is recognized and admired as a diligent and independent-minded jurist.

May 2006

Antonio Villaraigosa, Doctor of Humane Letters. Mayor of Los Angeles, former city councilmember and speaker of the California State Assembly, and distinguished visiting fellow at USC's Southern California Studies Center. Mr. Villaraigosa delivered the commencement address.

Vartan Gregorian, Doctor of Humane Letters. President, Carnegie Corporation of New York. Renowned scholar and leader of public and private institutions, including Brown University; professor; historian; and author.

Herbert G. Klein, Doctor of Humane Letters. Retired vice president and editor-in-chief, Copley Newspapers. Long-serving USC trustee and alumnus, former White House communications director, and journalist.

Dr. Dushanka V. Kleinman, Doctor of Science. Deputy director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Rear admiral and America's first female chief dental officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.

May 2005

Neil A. Armstrong, Doctor of Humane Letters. A USC alumnus who was the first person to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong has distinguished himself as a skilled pilot, a brave and innovative explorer, and a dedicated citizen, educator, and war veteran. Mr. Armstrong delivered the commencement address.

Dennis F. Dougherty, Doctor of Humane Letters. As USC's Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Dennis Dougherty has played a major role in USC's rapid ascent into the top ranks of premier research universities. He has developed an administrative model that is at the very forefront of American higher education.

Eberhardt Rechtin, Doctor of Science. The founder of systems architecting as an academic field, USC Professor Emeritus Eberhardt Rechtin has made pivotal contributions to telecommunications technology and systems architecture through his distinguished career in the aerospace industry, in government, and in higher education.

Andrew J. Viterbi, Doctor of Science. USC trustee, professor, and engineering alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi has distinguished himself as a communications pioneer, a visionary scholar, a skilled entrepreneur, and a steadfast supporter of education.

John Williams, Doctor of Music. The world's foremost living composer of film music and a renowned conductor, John Williams has created music that has given voice to American culture for more than four decades.

Robert Zemeckis, Doctor of Fine Arts. A USC alumnus and award-winning director renowned for his innovative blending of technological wizardry and insightful storytelling, Robert Zemeckis has revolutionized filmmaking and established new standards of artistic excellence.

May 2004

John McCain, Doctor of Humane Letters. Legislator and military hero; has distinguished himself through his military service in Vietnam and his national leadership as a two-term member of Congress and a three-term United States Senator. Mr. McCain delivered the commencement address.

Edward Witten, Doctor of Science. Renowned mathematical physicist; has distinguished himself as a major contributor to the field of theoretical physics.

May 2003

Wallis Annenberg, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC trustee, vice president of the Annenberg Foundation; has distinguished herself as an exemplary philanthropist, a champion of educational opportunities particularly for women and children, and a lifelong friend of USC.

Mary Ellen Avery, Doctor of Science. Renowned physician, scientist, and neonatologist; has distinguished herself as an advocate for children through her groundbreaking scientific discoveries on respiratory disease in newborn babies.

Joseph Medicine Crow, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC alumnus (M.S. '39) and tribal historian of the Crow Indian Tribe; has distinguished himself as a scholar of Indian tribal history and anthropology throughout his life.

Ruth Simmons, Doctor of Humane Letters. President of Brown University, is a distinguished scholar and university administrator. Former associate dean of the Graduate School at USC, Dr. Simmons has served as vice provost for Princeton University and president of Smith College before assuming the presidency at Brown University. Dr. Simmons delivered the commencement address.

May 2002

Robert Day, Doctor of Humane Letters. Chairman, President and CEO of the W.M. Keck Foundation, has distinguished himself as an exemplary philanthropist, community leader and advocate of higher education.

General William Lyon, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC Trustee, Chairman and CEO of the William Lyon Companies, has distinguished himself as a philanthropist, community leader and patron of the arts.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Doctor of Humane Letters. The first native born Angeleno Archbishop of Los Angeles and one of the youngest bishops ever appointed in the United States and a champion of dialogue and understanding.

Dr. Cecil L. Murray, Doctor of Humane Letters. Reverend, First African Methodist Episcopal Church; under Reverend Murray's leadership, FAME maintains 40 task forces that include health, substance abuse, emergency food and clothing, homelessness, equity advocacy, tutoring, employment training and others.

May 2001

Alfred E. Mann, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC Trustee and founding donor of the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at USC; Founder and Executive Chairman of MiniMed, Inc; humanitarian and philanthropist dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering.

Barry Munitz, Doctor of Humane Letters. President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust and former Chancellor of the California State University, who has dedicated his life to the ideals of educational opportunity, socioeconomic mobility and strengthening the community through the understanding of people that the arts provide. Dr. Munitz delivered the commencement address.

May 2000

Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, leader in the entertainment industry, philanthropist, and champion of humanitarian causes. Mr. Eisner delivered the commencement address.

Frank O. Gehry, distinguished alumnus and one of the preeminent living architects and designers in the world today.

George W. Housner, C.F. Braun Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and one of the most renowned earthquake engineers of our time.

Elaine Leventhal, devoted alumna and great friend of the University, philanthropist, and tireless champion of higher education causes.

Kenneth Leventhal, dedicated USC Trustee, visionary leader in the field of accounting and accounting education, founding benefactor of the USC Leventhal School of Accounting, and successful leader of USC's "Building on Excellence" development campaign.


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