Honors and Prizes

Each year at Commencement the University bestows honorary degrees on several esteemed individuals who exemplify the ideals of the University through their significant scholarly, artistic or societal achievements or contributions. This is the highest honor that the University can bestow on an individual and the Trustees endeavor to ensure recognition for achievements across all of the various areas of study and fields of academia.

Honorary degrees are awarded in the following categories:

  • The Arts
  • The Humanities and Social Sciences
  • The Natural, Applied and Pure Sciences
  • Public Life and Government
  • Professor Emeritus/Emerita

Honorees do not need to be graduates of Columbia University.

The University Medal for Excellence is also awarded at Commencement, to an alumnus or alumna under 45 years of age whose record in scholarship, public service, and/or professional life is outstanding. Graduates from all divisions of the University, including Barnard College and Teachers College, are eligible for the Medal.

Please note that no honorary degree or University Medal for Excellence will be awarded to any person who is a full-time regular officer of the University.  Neither the University Medal for Excellence nor honorary degrees are awarded in absentia.