Previous Speakers & Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary Degree Recipients

The Board of Trustees maintain a full list of honorary degrees awarded to people who have exemplified in their work the highest ideals and standards to which the University is dedicated.


2023   Adam Silver, Commissioner of the National Basketball Assocation

2022   Mary Barra, Chair and CEO, General Motors 

2021   John Legend, Singer-songwriter, actor, producer and philanthropist

2020   Ken Jeong, Actor, comedian and Duke alum

2019   Lisa Borders, Former President and CEO of Time’s Up

2018   Tim CookCEO of Apple

2017   David RubensteinFormer Chair of the university’s Board of Trustees

2016   Michael Krzyzewski, Duke Men’s Basketball Head Coach

2015   Paul Farmer, Co-founder, Partners In Health

2014   General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

2013   Melinda Gates, Philanthropist and Businesswoman

2012   Fareed ZakariaJournalist and Foreign Policy Author

2011   John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco

2010   Muhammad YunusBangladeshi banker/economist

2009   Oprah WinfreyPhilanthropist

2008   Barbara KingsolverWriter

2007   G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., Chair and CEO, General Motors

2006   John Hope Franklin, J. B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History

2005   Ricardo Lagos, President of Chile

2004   Madeleine Albright, Sixty-fourth U.S. Secretary of State

2003   Nannerl O. Keohane, excerpts from Kofi Annan’s speech & comments from Honorary degree recipients

2002   Thomas K. Wolfe, Jr., Journalist

2001   Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Broadcast Journalist

2000   Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Public Servant

1999   Corinne Boggs Roberts (Cokie), Broadcast Journalist

1998   George H. W. Bush, 41st President of U.S.

1997   James Earl Carter, Jr., 39th President of U.S.

1996   Jane Alexander, Chairman, NEA

1995   David Gergen, Former presidential adviser, Prof. In Public Policy

1994   Judy Woodruff, Broadcast Journalist

1993   Bill Bradley, United States Senator, New Jersey

1992   Marian Wright Edelman, lawyer, educator, crusader for children’s rights

1991   George F. Will, syndicated columnist, educator, political commentator

1990   Tom Brokaw, Television Journalist

1989   Stephen Jay Gould, Historian of Science and Professor of Geology, Harvard University

1988   Garry B. Trudeau, Nationally Syndicated Cartoonist

1987   Edward (Ted) Koppel, Broadcast Journalist

Student Speakers

Any graduating student may submit a speech to be considered. Speeches are then reviewed and voted upon by a committee of faculty, staff and students.

2023   Kyle- Brandon Denis & Dylan Eiger

2021   Meghana Sai Iragavarapu

2020   Sabrina Maciariello

2019   Leah Rosen

2018   Deeksha Malhotra, B.S.

2017   Elena Elsie Elliott, A.B.

2016   Shannon Marie Beckham, A.B.

2015   Andrew Woodall Kragie, A.B.

2014   Jennifer Lenore Sherman, A.B.

2013   Andrew Tower Barnhill, M.Div.

2012   Roshan Kumar Sadanani, B.S.E.

2011   Michael Weston Lefevre, A.B.

2010   David Scott Distenfeld, A.B.

2009   Robert Paul Jones, M.D.

2008   Kyle George Knight, A.B. and Matthew D. Zafirovski, A.B.

2007   David K. Schmidt, A.B.

2006   Yazan R. Kopty, A.B.

2005   George Robert Painter IV, A.B.

2004   Paul William Downs, A.B.

2003   Terry Aaron Schuster, A.B.

2002   Timothy Michael Saintsing, M.P.P.

2001   Daniel Poor Mallory, A.B.

2000   Matha Holly Cooper, A.B.

1999   Samantha L. Wood, B.S.

1998   Cristina Cardoze, A.B.

1997   Edrienne M. Mason, A.B.

1994   Stephanie A. Sheps, A.B.

1992   Jennifer H. Ehlin, A.B.

1990   Mechelle Renee Evans, A.B.

1989   Stephen John Batten, A.B.

1988   David Mitchell Feitel, J.D.

1987   Frederick W. (Chip) Giessler II, B.S.

1986   David M. Allen, J.D.

1985   J. Porter Durham, J.D.

1984   Karen E. Lynch, A.B.

1983   Daniel S. Voll, A.B.

1982   Frederick Robinson, J.D.

1981   Harsha Murthy, A.B.

1980   Hans C. Linnartz, J.D.

1979   Gary W. Jackson, J.D.

1978   Michele Miller, A.B.

1977   Ian Neil Abrams, A.B.

1976   Kevin Moore, B.S.

1975   Marsha Michele McGraw, A.B.

1974   John Mortin Robinson, A.B.

1973   Susan Elizabeth Tifft, A.B.

1972   Clarence Geno Newsome, A.B.

1971   Byron Roscoe Trauger, A.B.

1970   Kenneth Powers Vickery, A.B.