Honorary Degrees Conferred by UBC

Main Library concourse 1920sHonorary degree recipients from 1925

The degrees of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa), Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), and Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) — LL.D, D.Sc., and D.Litt., respectively — are the honorary degrees conferred from time to time by the Senate of the University upon persons who have achieved distinction in scholarship or public service. The Ceremonies Office distributes nomination forms which, when completed, are forwarded to the Senate Tributes Committee. The Tributes Committee reviews the nominations and develops a list of individuals recommended, which is then forwarded to Senate for final approval.

Those wishing to nominate an individual for an honorary degree may now contact the Senate Tributes Committee online.

The names of honorary degree recipients listed here are linked to their citations, which described the accomplishments of the recipients and why they were worthy of being so honoured and were read to Congregation by the University President. Some entries also include the recipient’s convocation speech.

Since 2006, UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan have each conferred honorary degrees during separate Congregation ceremonies.


Established in 1915 in temporary quarters at the “Fairview Shacks”, the University of British Columbia first considered granting honorary degrees in 1916. However, the Senate committee chaired by Judge F.W. Howay offered the following advice:

…in view of the circumstances that the University has only just commenced its educational work, and even yet it is not in possession of the material advantages which it will ultimately enjoy by being quartered within the walls of its own buildings: the Committee recommends that the entire question of the conferring of honorary degrees be deferred until such time as the University has become fully established as a seat of study and learning, and enjoys that dignity of position which will arise from its having conferred upon one or more of its students, for cause a degree in learning equivalent to that proposed to be granted in honoris causa.

The University first conferred honorary degrees at the inaugural Congregation held at the new Point Grey campus on October 16th, 1925. In introducing the seven recipients, President Leonard S. Klinck observed that they “had pursued a course, a self-determined course, in the world of action or the world of thought.” The first honorary degree recipients included: UBC Chancellor Dr. R.E. McKechnie; the Honourable W.C. Nichol, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia; Dr. Henry Suzallo, President of the University of Washington; the Honourable J.D. MacLean, Minister of Finance and Education; Dr. J.S. Plaskett, Canadian astronomer and head of the Dominion Astro-Physical Observatory in Saanich; Dr. H.E. Young, “Father of the University” and Provincial Health Officer; and General Sir Arthur Currie, President and Vice Chancellor of McGill University (UBC’s “predecessor” in British Columbia), who delivered the Congregation address (Harry Logan, Tuum Est, p. 96).

Honorary Degree Recipients 1925UBC’s First Honorary Degree Recipients, 16 October 1925
Left to right: Henry Suzzallo, J.D. MacLean, R.E. McKechnie, W.C. Nichol, Arthur Currie, H.E. Young, and J.S. Plaskett
(UBC Archives Photo #1.1/490)

UBC Okanagan first conferred honorary degrees at its inaugural Congregation in Kelowna on June 9th, 2006. The recipients that day were First Nations educator and activist Jeannette Armstrong; and Dr. William Bowering, former president of Okanagan University College.