The position of Distinguished Professor is the highest academic honor that CUNY can offer its faculty. According to the Bylaws of the CUNY Board of Trustees, a Distinguished Professor "must be a person of outstanding merit and accomplishment in his/her field." Additional criteria were specified by the CUNY Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in a 1985 memorandum to the CUNY presidents as follows.
Whether from CUNY or elsewhere, each candidate should have a national reputation as a scholar, an acknowledged status as one of the leaders in his or her field of specialization, and a record of innovative, sustained, and influential research; or, in the case of the creative and performing arts, major contributions of works to the visual arts, music, theater, film, dance, or literature.
A program's Executive Committee presents nominations for Distinguished Professor to the Academic Review Committee. A minimum of ten letters of recommendation (preferably more) from scholars outside The City University of New York should be from specialists in the candidate's field; at least four evaluators must be selected independently. These letters should include a statement indicating how the candidate may be known to the evaluator; which of the candidate's scholarly works have been read by the evaluator; and how the candidate's work is judged relative to the most important work being done in the field.
Detailed nomination guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions about Distinguished Professors can be found on the City University of New York website.