Honorary Degree Recipients

The University of Chicago traditionally confers the honorary doctor of divinity, doctor of humane letters, doctor of laws, doctor of music, and doctor of science degrees.

The University’s approach to awarding honorary degrees, however, is unique in that the University does not honor actors, ambassadors, presidents or monarchs unless they meet stringent requirements for scholarship. The University traditionally awards honorary degrees to individuals who have made significant contributions to their fields of study or in service to the University, in the case of those who have served as presidents of the University or chairmen of the Board of Trustees.

University faculty nominate candidates at the level of degree-granting units. Departmental honorary degree committees collect letters of recommendation from outside scholars as well as complete bibliographies of the candidates. They make their recommendations to the divisional committees, which then make their recommendations to the deans.

2019 Honorary Degree Recipients

David Charbonneau

Professor of Astronomy and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University

David Charbonneau is a Professor of Astronomy and a Harvard College Professor at Harvard University. His research focuses on the detection and characterization of planets orbiting other stars, with the goal of studying inhabited worlds. He was the first to observe a planet eclipse its parent star; this method, known as transits, is now the means by which most planets outside the solar system have been identified. He also developed the first methods which astronomers use to study the atmospheres of these distant worlds. Using data from the NASA Kepler Mission, Dr. Charbonneau and his student Courtney Dressing determined the Galactic frequency of planets that were similar to Earth in both size and temperature. He leads the MEarth Project to search for nearby Earth-like worlds, and he is a Co-Investigator on the NASA TESS Mission, which launched in April 2018. Dr. Charbonneau received the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, the Alan T. Waterman Award from the NSF, the Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement from NASA, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was born in Ottawa, Canada and lived there until he moved to study mathematics, physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto. After receiving his PhD in astronomy from Harvard University, he was the R. A. Millikan Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Harvard in 2004 to join the faculty in the Department of Astronomy.


Pierre-Louis Lions

Professor and Chair, Partial Differential Equations and Their Applications, Coll├Ęge de France in Paris

Professor Pierre-Louis Lions is one of the most prominent experts, worldwide, of the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations. He is a Professor at the prestigious Collège de France in Paris, where he holds the Chair of “Partial Differential Equations and Applications” since 2002. He was also a Professor of Applied Mathematics at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, from 1992 to 2016.

Professor Pierre-Louis Lions has made profound and lasting contributions to the mathematical analysis of the Boltzman equation, the compressible Navier-Stokes equations, the Hamilton-Jacobi equations, the Hartree-Fock equation, image processing, viscosity solutions, concentration compactness, mean field games, and stochastic partial differential equations.

Professor Pierre-Louis Lions is Commandeur in the National Order of the Legion of Honor in France. He is Large Cross of the National order of merit Scientific Brazilian. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences, of the Accademia dei Lincei, of the Academies of Sciences of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, of the Academia Europaea, of the Istituto Lombardo, of the Accademia di Napoli, of the French Academy of Technologies, of the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and of the Royal Academy of Belgium.

Professor Pierre-Louis Lions has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Fields Medal in 1994, the Grand Prize Ampère from the French Academy of Sciences, the Grand Prize from the INRIA, France, the IBM Prize, and the Philip Morris Prize. He is “Doctor Honoris Causa” at Heriot-Watt University, at City University of Hong Kong, at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, at Bucharest University, at Santiago of Chile University and at Narvik University.


Amy Richlin

Distinguished Professor of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles

Amy Richlin is Distinguished Professor of Classics at UCLA. She is a path-breaking historian of Roman sexuality, of Roman women, and of Roman slavery, and a feminist pioneer who fought for women and gender equity in the conservative field of Classics.  Her work makes audible the voices of outgroups and muted groups in Rome, from the mid-Republic to the end of the empire.  She deals with materials once ignored:  obscene poetry and graffiti; hate speech directed against men considered deviant; the jokes told by Julia, daughter of Augustus, and the songs of poor women paid to lament the dead; why Pliny wore a brassiere on his head; the sexual abuse of slave children; the love letters between the young Marcus Aurelius and his teacher, the African orator Cornelius Fronto. In 2019 she won the C. J. Goodwin Award from the Society for Classical Studies for Slave Theater in the Roman Republic: Plautus and Popular Comedy, a book that finds the voices of slave actors and freed-slave playwrights speaking truth to power.  Her work as a mentor of students has been recognized by the Leadership Award of the Women’s Classical Caucus.


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