Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Thesis Awards

**Important note: Due to a mid-year change in program management and staff turnover, Medals will be operating on a limited and delayed timeline for the 20-21 academic year. Thank you for your patience as the program undergoes these transitions. 

Top honors theses are recognized annually by the following awards:

Golden Medal

The Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in the Humanities and the Creative Arts is awarded to the top ten percent of all honors theses in the humanities, as well as to designated senior projects or performances in the arts.

Firestone Medal

The Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research recognizes the top ten percent of all honors theses in the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering and applied sciences.

Kennedy Thesis Prize

Kennedy Thesis Prizes are awarded to the top Firestone/Golden medalist from each of the following areas of study: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering and applied sciences.

Past recipients of these thesis prizes are typically featured in Stanford News: 2019201820172016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997. (The Kennedy Prize was first presented in 2008.)

The Nomination Process

All nominations for Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy thesis awards must be made by the department or honors program, so individual faculty who wish to nominate students should contact the major department or the honors program. An official announcement with detailed nomination instructions will be sent in late April, and nominations are usually due to VPUE in late May. These communications come from the VPUE Medals email account.

The 2021 deadline for all nominations and supporting documents was originally June 2, 2021, but we are extending the deadline for all materials to June 9.

Departments and faculty are very welcome to contact at any point with questions about the nomination and award process. The basic criteria are that the thesis should stand out as exceptional in five areas: originality, rigorous deployment of research method, value of research to the field, quality of argument, and quality of presentation according to standards of the field. All students who submit their final honors thesis between Summer 2020 and Spring 2021 are eligible to be nominated by the department or honors program, regardless of their official date of graduation.

Students with questions should contact their honors program, as each program sets their own process for how to determine the top theses in that department. Deadlines and eligibility will vary by department.

Medals Ceremony

The Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy awards are usually presented at the annual Undergraduate Medals Ceremony, held midday on the Saturday of Commencement Weekend. The Medals Ceremony offers a place for families and thesis advisors to meet and mingle as their student is honored.

Due to COVID-19 health concerns, we will not be able to hold a physical cermony to celebrate this year's winners, however the selection process is still moving forward! Medals recipients will be announced in mid June, with medals and certificates mailed to winners later in the summer.

If you have questions about the Golden, Firestone, and Kennedy Awards or the Medals Ceremony that are not answered here, please email

The Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation

The Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation is granted by departments and programs to students whose honors presentation exemplifies the highest standards. It is coordinated by the Oral Communication Program and is separate from the thesis medals process. For more information, please contact Doree Allen, Ph.D., Oral Communication Program Director,, (650) 725-4149.