The criteria for awarding an Emory honorary degree include:
- achievement of the highest distinction in a field of learning, the arts, the professions, or public service, especially those achievements that contribute to the life of the mind and human spirit;
- compelling reasons why it would be particularly fitting for Emory University to honor the nominee;
- special significance the honor might have to the individual being recognized;
- appropriateness of recognition at Commencement, before a general audience of undergraduate, graduate and professional students, faculty and families.
Except in extraordinary circumstances, persons who have spent the greatest part of their careers as members of the Emory faculty or administration or those currently serving in US elective office are not considered. The committee will, however, receive with interest nominations of persons otherwise associated with Emory such as alumni, distinguished visiting faculty, and others. The committee encourages the nomination of individuals from diverse demographic backgrounds. As a general rule, honorary degrees are not awarded posthumously.