Listed below are recipients from 2010 to 2019.


Elizabeth Alexander, Doctor of Humane Letters
Poet, scholar, memoirist, and president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; former professor at Columbia and Yale; wrote and delivered the poem for President Obama's first inauguration in 2009

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Doctor of Humane Letters
Professor of philosohy and law at New York University; author of "The Ethicist" column in The New York Times Magazine; recipient of the National Humanities Medal in 2012

Brian Kent Kobilka, Doctor of Science
Helene Irwin Fagan chair in cardiology and professor or molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University; winner in 2012 of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on G protein-coupled receptors

Caroline Mary Series, Doctor of Science
Professor emerita of mathematics at the University of Warwick, known for her groundbreaking research in hyperbolic geometry and dynamical systems and for her leadership in promoting women mathematicians


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Doctor of Humane Letters
Nigerian-born author of short stories, essays, and acclaimed novels, including Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013); feminist activist and speaker. 

Mary T. Barra, Doctor of Science
Chair and CEO of General Motors Company; the first woman to lead a major auto company.

William V. Bell, Doctor of Laws
Former mayor of Durham who served eight terms from 2001 to 2017, presiding over the renaissance of downtown Durham and becoming the city’s longest-serving mayor. 

Philip G. Freelon, Doctor of Humane Letters
Distinguished architect and Durham resident who designed many public buildings nationally that focus on civil rights, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

William G. Kaelin, Jr., M.D., Doctor of Science
Duke alumnus (A.B.’78, M.D.’82). Cancer biologist, professor in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School, co-recipient of the 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

Russell M. Robinson II; Doctor of Laws
Duke alumnus (LL.B.’56).  Attorney, community leader, and philanthropist; former trustee and chair of The Duke Endowment.


Clayton Christensen, Doctor of Humane Letters
Expert on innovation and growth, professor at Harvard Business School, best-selling author, and originator of the theory of disruptive innovation. 

George Church, Doctor of Science
Duke alumnus and pioneer in personal genomics and synthetic biology. Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT, and a founding core member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

Deborah Lee James, Doctor of Laws
Duke alumna who served as 23rd secretary of the Air Force, 2013-17. Former assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs and former president of the Technical and Engineering Sector of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch, Doctor of Laws
Durham native who served from 2015-17 as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States, the first African-American woman to serve in that role. Former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Stanley Nelson, Doctor of Humane Letters
Documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced more than 20 documentary films, primarily focused on the African-American experience. Recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, five Primetime Emmys, and the National Humanities Medal.

Marilynne Robinson, Doctor of Humane Letters
Author of four acclaimed novels—Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila—and four works of nonfiction. Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the National Humanities Medal. 

Luis von Ahn, Doctor of Science
Duke alumnus, MacArthur Fellow, and founder of a subdiscipline of computer science called human computation. Entrepreneur who co-founded Duolingo, the free language education platform named the iPhone App of the Year and the Best of the Best Android App.


William Foege, Doctor of Science
Global health pioneer, devised vaccination strategy that led to eradication of smallpox, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the Carter Center. First senior medical advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Doctor of Humane Letters
President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, first woman and the first African American in that role. A member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Charlie Rose, Doctor of Humane Letters
Duke alumnus and journalist. Recipient of the Peabody Award, Emmy Award, Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Vincent Scully Prize and France’s Legion d'honneur. Was named among the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine.

Natasha Trethewey, Doctor of Humane Letters
Poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, former Poet Laureate of the United States, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, member of the Emory University faculty.

Srinivasa Varadhan, Doctor of Science
Mathematician, recipient of the Abel Prize in Mathematics and the National Medal of Science. Member of the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences, the Amer­ic­an Academy of Arts and Sci­ences, the Roy­al So­ci­ety of Lon­don, and the Third World Academy of Sci­ences. Member of the faculty of the Courant Institute at New York University.


France Córdova, Doctor of Science
Director of the National Science Foundation, astrophysicist, first female chief scientist at NASA, served as chancellor of the University of California at Riverside and president of Purdue University

Renée Fleming, Doctor of Arts
Opera singer and soprano, one of the most celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, National Medal of Arts winner

Rakesh Jain, Doctor of Science
Pioneer in bioengineering and tumor biology, one of 20 individuals ever elected to all three U.S. National Academies - the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine - as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Michael Feinberg and David Levin, Doctor of Humane Letters
Founders of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) whose mission is to create a national network of public schools that are successful in helping students from educationally underserved communities. As of 2015, KIPP has grown to a national network of 57 schools in 17 states and Washington D.C.

Harold A. Mooney, Doctor of Science
Pioneer in plant physiological ecology, international leader in assessing the impact of climate change and the degradation of ecosystems from the tropics to the Artic, member of the Stanford faculty

McCoy Tyner, Doctor of Arts
Considered to be one of the most influential jazz pianists of the 20th century, has received many honors and awards - including the Presidential Merit Award from the Grammy Foundation and a Jazz Master award from the National Endowment for the Arts


Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Doctor of Science
UC Berkeley educator and researcher, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine

Erskine B. Bowles, Doctor of Laws
Businessman, Politician, former President of the UNC system and co-chair of Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Susan M. Hockfield, Doctor of Humane Letters
Leader in Higher Education and researcher of glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer, and the first woman and first life scientist to serve as president of MIT

Walter Isaacson, Doctor of Humane Letters
Writer and biographer, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute and former chairman and CEO of CNN and editor of TIME magazine

W. Delano Meriwether, Doctor of Science
Physician, former track and field athlete, and founder of the Meriwether Foundation


Marguerite Barankitse (Maggy), Doctor of Humane Letters 
Burundian humanitarian and social entrepreneur, founder of Maison Shalom or "House of Peace"
Max Dale Cooper, Doctor of Science        
Distinguished immune system scientist, identifier of T cells and B cells, and chair of the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology Advisory Board      

David Sean Ferriero, Doctor of Humane Letters      
10th Archivist of the United States, former director of New York Public Libraries and university librarian and vice provost for library affairs at Duke University

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Doctor of Humane Letters     
Scholar of African-American history and literature, director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University    

Melinda Gates, Doctor of Humane Letters    
Philanthropist and world humanitarian, co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

William Hunt Gross (Bill), Doctor of Laws      
Finance and microeconomics Leader; founder, managing director, and co-CIO of Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO)     

Judith A. Jamison, Doctor of Arts      
Dancer and choreographer, artistic director emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater


James Barksdale, Doctor of Laws
President and Chairman of Barksdale Management Corporation, a philanthropic investment company.

Nancy Brinker, Doctor of Humane Letters
Founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Emmylou Harris, Doctor of Arts
Singer-songwriter and 12-time Grammy award winner. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Darryl Hunt, Doctor of Humane Letters
Advocate and spokesperson for the rights of the innocent; founder of The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice.

Robert Coleman Richardson, Doctor of Science
The Floyd Newman Professor of Physics at Cornell University; co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Fareed Zakaria, Doctor of Humane Letters
Editor-at-Large of Time Magazine, host of CNN's flagship foreign affairs show, a Washington Post columnist, and a New York Times bestselling author.


John T. Chambers, Doctor of Science
CEO and Chairman of the Board of Cisco Systems, philanthropist.

Rita Dove, Doctor of Literature
Essayist, poet and novelist; former Poet Laureate of the United States.

James B. Hunt, Jr., Doctor of Laws
Former four-term governor of North Carolina; advocate for public education.

Alan C. Page, Doctor of Humane Letters
Justice of the Minnesota Supreme court and former All-America football player; co-founder of the Page Education Foundation.

Lisa Randall, Doctor of Science
Theoretical physicist and a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology.

Eric K. Shinseki, Doctor of Humane Letters
Secretary of the Veterans Administration; retired U.S. Army four-star general and former Army chief of staff. 

Tan Chorh Chuan, Doctor of Science
President of the National University of Singapore;  international leader in public health and biomedical sciences.


Temple Grandin, Doctor of Humane Letters
Autism expert and professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University

Joel Klein, Doctor of Humane Letters
Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education

Alasdair MacIntyre, Doctor of Humane Letters
Philosopher, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture

Sir John Pendry, Doctor of Science
English theoretical physicist, creator of the first practical "invisibility cloak."

Muhammad Yunus, Doctor of Humane Letters
2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangldesh