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.


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
2023: Samuel P. Bell, III, posthumously, Former Florida State Representative and 'father' of the USF's College of Public Health


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


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
2022: Wilton Simpson, Florida Senate President
2023: Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of ReliaQuest


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.


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.