The University of St.Gallen awards Honorary Doctor's degrees for outstanding services to academia and practice in
- Economic Sciences (Dr. oec. h.c.): for outstanding services to economic sciences or economic practice;
- Political Sciences (Dr. rer. publ. h.c.): for outstanding services to political science or the public good;
- Law (Dr. iur. h.c.): for outstanding services to law;
- Social Sciences (Dr. rer. soc. h.c.): for outstanding services to the exploration of society or the commitment to the solution of societal problems.
Honorary Doctorates are awarded by the University on its greatest day of the year, the dies academicus. On this occasion, the Deans of the individual Schools pay tribute to the new Honorary Doctors with celebratory eulogies. The people about to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate are obliged to participate in the dies academicus.
The additional letters "h.c." stand for honoris causa. People who have been awarded two or more such honours may style themselves "Dr. h.c. mult.". Here, "mult." stands for multiplex, i.e. for multiple Honorary Doctorates.
Proposals for Honorary Doctorates are submitted by a School or a member of the Senate. Such proposals must be submitted to the President in writing; they must adduce the reasons for a possible award and be accompanied by a CV and a list of publications. The number of Honorary Doctorates awarded varies from year to year.
The first four Honorary Doctorates were awarded in 1949, 50 years after the foundation of the University: to ETH Professor Dr. Eugen Böhler, to Dr. Heinrich Homberger, Director of the Vorort des Schweizerischen Handels- und Industrievereins (the precursor of today's economiesuisse), to legal historian Dr. Carl Moser-Nef, and to Harvard Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Gottfried Haberler.
In 1978, the first woman, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. To date, the University of St.Gallen has awarded Honorary Doctor's degrees to 14 women and 136 men:
- 94 in Economic Sciences (4 women / 90 men)
- 30 in Political Sciences (4 woman / 26 men)
- 22 in Law (4 women / 18 men)
- 4 in Social Sciences (2 woman / 2 man)
At 36 years of age, Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs was the HSG's youngest Honorary Doctor to date. At the grand old age of 90, Elisabeth Pletscher was awarded an Honorary Doctorate; she had been instrumental in providing Appenzell women with the right to vote.