Ask Abe: Honorary Degrees

An Alum

How many honorary degrees has the UW awarded?

Abe

Think it might be easy to earn an honorary degree from UW–Madison? The process is long, rigorous, and just one achievement alone doesn’t guarantee you this highest honor. To receive the Badger-iest Badger distinction, you need to have a significant connection to the UW or Wisconsin, meaning you have attended, worked, or served the university, and have a “career of extraordinary accomplishments.” Contrary to popular belief, honorary degrees cannot be awarded to people just because they make a financial contribution to the UW. So how many Badgers have been awarded this prestigious honor? There have been 620, with the most frequently awarded being 273 doctor of laws degrees and, among the least frequent, doctor of medicine being awarded only once. That one degree was also the first honorary degree ever awarded: in 1856 to Alfred Castleman. (We can understand why they don’t do this anymore.) More recently, Jerome Chazen ’48, David Fahey ’75, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield MA’75 all received honorary degrees in 2018 for their efforts in humanities, science, and law respectively. Photos by Bryce Richter/University Communications