The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Tuesday that DeGeneres will receive the 15th annual award. The ceremony will include a lineup of star performers and will be recorded for broadcast at a later date.
DeGeneres said in a statement that receiving the same award as past winners like Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell makes her wonder, "Why didn't I get this sooner?"
Degeneres announced in 1997 that she is gay. The risky yet groundbreaking move is credited for paving the way for gay characters on television.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.