Awardees & Honorary Degrees

The USF President has the ability to bestow three distinct awards during a Commencement ceremony. These awards are among the highest awards recognized by the University. These awards include the Distinguished Citizen Award, Global Leadership Award, and the President’s Fellow Medallion.

Distinguished Citizen Award

This award was established in 1974 to be presented from time to time to a U.S. Citizen (usually a Floridian) who has rendered distinguished public service to the people of Florida, particularly to the people of the USF service area.

List of past recipients:

  • Pre-1979: Tommy Howard, Terrel Sessums
  • 1979: James L. Redman, Frank Morsani
  • 1982: Jack McGriff
  • 1983: E.J. Salcines, Adajean Samson, Lee Stokes
  • 1984: Clint Brown, Cecil B. Keene
  • 1988: Raymond Shelton, Carl Riggs, Dorece Norris
  • 1990: Frank Spain, Colleen Bevis
  • 1991: Glenda Lentz, Rudy Michaud, Lee Stokes
  • 1995: Carol M. Browner, Edward Cole, Sandra W. Freedman, Bro. William Geenan, Peter Rudy Wallace
  • 1996: James L. Redman
  • 1997: Braulio Alonso, Isreal Tribble, Roland Manteiga
  • 1998: Ann Henderson
  • 2001: Mandall Shimberg, Gus Stavros, Lee Arnold, Lester Tuttle, Sandra H. Wilson, C. John A. Clarke, Emanuel Stewart
  • 2002: Raymond Gross
  • 2003: Dick Greco, Dan Miller
  • 2004: Chloe J. Coney, Patricia Glass
  • 2005: Earl Lennard, Rob Turner, Stella Ferguson Thayer, Duncan Finlay, Russ Sloan
  • 2006: Sarah Pappas, Les Miller
  • 2007: Hal Mullis
  • 2008: Victor Leavengood, Lee Leavengood
  • 2009: Rhea Chiles
  • 2010: Pam Iorio
  • 2011: Olin Mott
  • 2012: David Touchton
  • 2015: Jane Castor, MaryEllen Elia
  • 2019: Jerry & Ruth Bell, Doretha Edgecomb, Richard Gonzmart, Jose Valiente

Global Leadership Award

This award is presented at the President’s discretion to individuals who have achieved exemplary accomplishments in international leadership or global relations. The award is the highest international recognition the University bestows. The award was established in 2006, the University’s 50th anniversary year. 

List of past recipients:

  • 2006: Nava Ben Zvi, President of Hadassa College in Jerusalem
  • 2007: Juan Vazquez, Rector of the University of Oviedo and President of the Spanish Conference of University Rectors
  • 2007: Carol Bellamy, President and CEO of World Learning and the former Executive Director of UNICEF
  • 2009: Madame Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban, Confucius Institutes
  • 2009: Indira Chakravarty, Noted public health specialist
  • 2010: Bae-Yong Lee, President of Ewha Womans University in Korea
  • 2010: Allan Goodman, President of the Institute of International Education
  • 2011: Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana
  • 2011: Young Sun Lee, President of Hallym University in Korea
  • 2012: Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter
  • 2012: Gabriella Ganugi, Founder of Palazzi Florence Association for International Education
  • 2012: N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies, Ltd.
  • 2013: Karen Holbrook, Senior Advisor to the USF President
  • 2013: Marlene Johnson, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of NAFSA: Association of International Educators
  • 2014: Jorge Motta, Secretary Minister of Science and Technology of Panama
  • 2015: Raul Diez Canseco Terry, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of the San Ignacio de Loyola Education Corporation
  • 2016: Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public Land Grant Universities
  • 2017: Ibrahim Gambari, Nigerian scholar and diplomat
  • 2017: France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation
              Jesús Ferro-Bayona, Rector of Universidad del Norte
  • 2018: Jeffrey Krischer, Distinguished Professor, and Dyann Wirth, Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Diseases
  • 2019: Chennupati Jagadish, Distinguished Professor of Physics, Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport, and David Mearns, International Shipwreck hunter

President’s Fellow Medallion

This award is given at the President’s discretion to very distinguished visitors and highly meritorious individuals. It was established in 1988.

List of past recipients:

  • 1988: Jane Cook
  • 1994: Doug Jamerson, Former state legislator and Florida education commissioner
  • 1996: John Lott Brown, Former USF President
  • 2000: Lewis A. Barness, Founder of USF’s Pediatrics Department and healthcare pioneer.
  • 2002: Werner Von Rosenstiel, German-American attorney, lecturer, writer and philanthropist
  • 2002: J. Patrick Michaels, Founder, Chairman & CEO of The CEA Group
  • 2004: Lee Leavengood, First female named to the USF Foundation, founded the Friends of the Library and a gallery at the USF Contemporary Art Museum
  • 2004: Victor Leavengood, Former civic leader and former President of the Florida Daily Newspaper Association
  • 2004: Don Wallace, President, CEO and Founder of Lazydays RV Super Center
  • 2005: Rita Bornstein, Former President of Rollins College
  • 2006: Richard “Dick” Beard, First USF Trustee Board Chair
  • 2007: David Ward, Former President of the American Council on Education
  • 2008: Antonio Novello, Former US Surgeon General and Commissioner of Health for the State of New York
  • 2010: Rhea Law, Former USF Trustee and Board Chair
  • 2012: Lee E. Arnold, Jr., Former USF Trustee
  • 2012: John F. Germany, One of three “founding fathers” of USF
  • 2014: Paul Luna, President of the Helios Education Foundation
  • 2014: John Ramil, USF Trustee and former Board Chair
  • 2014: Vince Roig, Founding Chairman of the board for the Helios Education Foundation
  • 2014: Stuart Silverman, Former Dean of USF Honors College
  • 2015: Peter Levin, Founding Dean of the USF College of Public Health
  • 2016: Ernest Boger, Professor and first black graduate of USF
  • 2016: Hal Mullis, Former USF Trustee and Board Chair
  • 2018: Bob Buckhorn, Mayor of Tampa
  • 2019: David Eddy, Distinguished physician, mathematician and health care analyst, Lyle Schwartz, former Director of the U.S. Air Force Research program and professor of materials science, Jeff Vinik, Owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and local philanthropist, and Will Weatherford, Past Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

Honorary Degrees

These degrees are awarded at the President’s discretion to meritorious individuals. The Faculty Senate Honors and Awards Council reviews all nominations and submits their recommendations to the full Faculty Senate for approval. If approved, the nominees go to the president for final approval.

The University of South Florida grants the following honorary degrees (these degrees differ from those earned at USF):

  • Doctor of Architecture
  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Doctor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Doctor of Education
  • Doctor of Engineering
  • Doctor of Humane Letters
  • Doctor of Humanities
  • Doctor of Marine Science
  • Doctor of Medicine
  • Doctor of Nursing
  • Doctor of Pharmacy
  • Doctor of Public Health
  • Doctor of Science
  • Doctor of The Arts

Please visit the Faculty Senate website for more information regarding Honorary Degrees.

Student Awards at Commencement 

King O'Neal Scholar Award

The USF Alumni Association awards the King O’Neal Scholars Award every semester to those students completing their undergraduate coursework with a 4.0 GPA. The award was created in honor of charter USF graduates Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal. King O’Neal Scholars receive special individual recognition at Commencement by the university President and the Alumni Association Chair. Each scholar receives a certificate recognizing their accomplishment and a medallion of the University seal. Please visit the Alumni Association website for more details.

Outstanding Graduate Award

Every semester the university selects an exemplary undergraduate student to receive the Outstanding Graduate Award. This student is one who embodies leadership, school spirit, academic excellence, community involvement and a love for USF.

The Outstanding Graduate is selected by the Office of the Provost and Student Success, and is honored with individual recognition by the university President at Commencement.