University of Southern California

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USC’s Commencement History

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The commencement ceremony at University of Southern California is the most highly anticipated event in any given year, when the university proudly confers degrees to its newest alumni. Now a beloved tradition, the university hosts esteemed luminaries to address the graduating class, as well as awarding of honorary degrees to individuals who embody Trojan ideals. Found on the list are governors, university presidents, humanitarians, captains of industry, and even the first man on the moon.

While it can be pinpointed that the university did not bestow honorary degrees until 1912, or that the university’s first commencement speaker was the brother of Marion Bovard, USC’s first president, the identities of many of our earliest speakers have been lost to the ages, and from 1931 to 1942 the university had no commencement speaker. Outside of those years, even a cursory glance at the identities of past speakers will reveal a rich tradition of leadership and excellence in USC’s commencement speakers.

Below is a list of USC’s most recent honorary degree recipients and speakers. Find the complete list of University of Southern California’s past commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients here.

May 12, 2017 – Will Ferrell, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Suzanne Dworak-Peck, Doctor of Humane Letters
Will Ferrell, Doctor of Humane Letters
David D. Ho, Doctor of Science
Gary Michelson, Doctor of Humane Letters
Dame Helen Mirren, Doctor of Fine Arts
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 13, 2016 – Lawrence J. Ellison, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Lawrence J. Ellison, Doctor of Humane Letters
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Doctor of Fine Arts
Jackie Lacey, Doctor of Laws
Mark Stevens, Doctor of Humane Letters
Mary Stevens, Doctor of Humane Letters
Selim Zilkha, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 15, 2015 – Mellody Hobson, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Pete Carroll, Doctor of Humane Letters
Kamala Harris, Doctor of Humane Letters
Mellody Hobson, Doctor of Humane Letters
Michael Tilson Thomas, Doctor of Music
Ada Yonath, Doctor of Science

May 16, 2014 – Marc Benioff, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Marc Benioff, Doctor of Humane Letters
B. Wayne Hughes, Doctor of Business Administration
Shonda L. Rhimes, Doctor of Fine Arts
Phillip A. Sharp, Doctor of Science
James H. Simons, Doctor of Humane Letters
Twyla Tharp, Doctor of Fine Arts

May 17, 2013 – Jimmy Iovine, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
John Gurdon, Doctor of Science
David Henry Hwang, Doctor of Literature
Jimmy Iovine, Doctor of Humane Letters
Glorya Kaufman, Doctor of Humane Letters
Edward P. Roski, Doctor of Humane Letters
Gayle Garner Roski, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 11, 2012 – Christiane Amanpour, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Christiane Amanpour, Doctor of Humane Letters
Roméo Dallaire, Doctor of Humane Letters
Dana Dornsife, Doctor of Humane Letters
David Dornsife, Doctor of Humane Letters
Victoria Hale, Doctor of Humane Letters
A. C. “Mike” Markkula Jr., Doctor of Humane Letters
John Mork, Doctor of Humane Letters
Julie McAndrews Mork, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 13, 2011 – Steven A. Ballmer, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Steven A. Ballmer, Doctor of Humane Letters
Ann E. Dunwoody, Doctor of Humane Letters
Ming Hsieh, Doctor of Humane Letters
Girish Karnad, Doctor of Humane Letters
Albie Sachs, Doctor of Humane Letters
Harald zur Hausen, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 14, 2010 – Steven B. Sample, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
William J. Bratton, Doctor of Laws
John Hood, Doctor of Humane Letters
Ting-Kai Li, Doctor of Science
Festus Mogae, Doctor of Humane Letters
Esa-Pekka Salonen, Doctor of Music

2000s

May 15, 2009 – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Anita K. Jones, Doctor of Science
Elena Poniatowska Amor, Doctor of Literature
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor of Humane Letters
Frances Wu, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 16, 2008 – Robert Iger, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Sweet Alice Harris, Doctor of Humane Letters
Robert A. Iger, Doctor of Humane Letters
Norman Lear, Doctor of Humane Letters
Harlyne J. Norris, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 11, 2007 – Ted Koppel, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Arvid Carlsson, Doctor of Science
Clint Eastwood, Doctor of Humane Letters
Joyce Kennard, Doctor of Laws
Ted Koppel, Doctor of Laws

May 12, 2006 – Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Vartan Gregorian, Doctor of Humane Letters
Herbert G. Klein, Doctor of Humane Letters
Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 13, 2005 – Neil Armstrong, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Neil A. Armstrong, Doctor of Humane Letters
Dennis F. Dougherty, Doctor of Humane Letters
Eberhardt Rechtin, Doctor of Science
Andrew J. Viterbi, Doctor of Science
John Williams, Doctor of Music
Robert Zemeckis, Doctor of Fine Arts

May 14, 2004 – John McCain, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Edward Witten, Doctor of Science
John McCain, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 16, 2003 – Ruth Simmons, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Wallis Annenberg, Doctor of Humane Letters
Mary Ellen Avery, Doctor of Science
Joseph Medicine Crow, Doctor of Humane Letters
Ruth J. Simmons, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 10, 2002 – David Halberstam, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Robert A. Day, Doctor of Humane Letters
William Lyon, Doctor of Humane Letters
Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Doctor of Humane Letters
Cecil L. Murray, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 11, 2001 – Barry Munitz, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Alfred E. Mann, Doctor of Humane Letters
Barry Munitz, Doctor of Humane Letters

May 12, 2000 – Michael Eisner, Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipients:
Michael D. Eisner, Doctor of Humane Letters
Frank O. Gehry, Doctor of Fine Arts
George W. Housner, Doctor of Science
Elaine Otter Leventhal, Doctor of Humane Letters
Kenneth Leventhal, Doctor of Humane Letters