Howard C. Kauffmann, president of Exxon Corp. since 1975, will retire after the company's annual meeting May 16, Exxon said yesterday.

Lawrence G. Rawl, an Exxon senior vice president, will be nominated to succeed Kauffmann, Exxon Chairman Clifton C. Garvin Jr. said in a statement.

Garvin also announced that Donald M. Cox, an Exxon senior vice president since 1971, also plans to retire after the shareholders' meeting.

Kauffmann, who turns 62 on Feb. 25, was elected president of the nation's largest oil company after a career devoted in large part to Exxon's overseas operations. He joined the organization in 1946.

Rawl, 56, joined Exxon in 1952 and was named a senior vice president in 1973. Sanford Margoshes, oil analyst with the investment firm Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc., lauded Rawl as "an excellent choice" to be Exxon's president.

Rawl has "demonstrated a broad depth of understanding not only of his own company but of the whole industry," Margoshes said. "Also, he is an expert in exploration and production, and that's the leading edge of where Exxon will be concentrating its efforts in the foreseeable future."

Earlier this week, Exxon said it earned $5.53 billion in 1984 on revenue of $97.3 billion, up 11 percent and 3 percent from 1983, respectively.