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Senior Day Speaker

Open Seating - Tickets are not required.

In 2006, Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols, created and endowed The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal. The medal includes a cash award and is one of the university’s highest honors. It is given to individuals who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit.

Our 2014 Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal recipient and Senior Day speaker will be the 18th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin.

Senior Day – Thursday, May 8, 2014
Location – Memorial Gym
Time – 11 a.m. – Noon

Toni Morrison

Dr. Regina M. Benjamin

Regina M. Benjamin served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in July 2009 and served a four-year term. As America's doctor, she provided the public with information on how to improve their health and the health of the nation. She also oversaw the operational command of 6,500 uniformed public health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote and protect the health of the American people. Additionally, Benjamin served as chair of the National Prevention Council ─ 17 cabinet-level federal agencies that developed the road map for the nation's health – the National Prevention Strategy.

From her early days as the founder of a rural health clinic in Alabama – which she kept in operation despite damage and destruction inflicted by hurricanes Georges and Katrina and a devastating fire – to her leadership role in the worldwide advancement of preventive health care, she has forged a career that has been recognized by a broad spectrum of organizations and publications.

Benjamin has a bachelor's of science degree in chemistry from Xavier University, New Orleans, a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an MBA from Tulane University. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Ga. She is the recipient of 22 honorary degrees.

She is former associate dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile and past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. In 1995, Benjamin was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She served as president of the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation and chair of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. In 2002, she became the first African-American female president of a state medical society in the United States when she assumed leadership of the Medical Association State of Alabama.

Benjamin is a member of the Institute of Medicine – the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. She was chosen as a Kellogg National Fellow and a Rockefeller Next Generation Leader. Past board memberships include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Catholic Health Association and Morehouse School of Medicine.

She was named by Time magazine as one of the "Nation's 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under" and was featured in The New York Times article, "Angel in a White Coat." She has appeared on the cover of Clarity magazine and on the cover of Reader's Digest as one of the national publication's "Everyday Heroes." People magazine featured her in its article, "Always on Call," and she was named "Person of the Week" on ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and "Woman of the Year" by CBS This Morning.

She was the United States recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She has also received the National Caring Award, which was inspired by Mother Teresa, and recognized with the Papal honor Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from Pope Benedict XVI. She has been honored with a MacArthur Genius Award Fellowship and the Chairman's Award during the worldwide broadcast of the 42nd NAACP Image Awards. In May 2012, Reader's Digest ranked her #22 on its list of the "100 Most Trusted People in America."

Watch live streaming video of Senior Day beginning at 10 a.m. Central Time at

About Memorial Gym

  • The main gym where Senior Day will be held is NOT air conditioned. Wear comfortable clothes in the event of unusually warm weather.
  • Holding seats is not permitted inside Memorial Gym as seating is limited.
  • Senior Day will be streamed live on the Vanderbilt homepage and will also be available to watch after the event.
  • Attendees with special needs:
    • Those with special needs and requiring the use of a wheelchair will have priority seating on the East side of the gym. Guests with wheelchairs must enter gym at the pickup location (below). The East side entrance is not handicapped-accessible and there is no access to the gym floor.
    • Wheelchair pickup will be located on the corner of Jess Neely Drive and 25th Ave. South (same corner as the baseball field and across from 25th Ave. Garage).
    • More information available here.

View Past Senior Day Speakers »

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Future Commencement Dates

2015 - May 6, 7, 8
2016 - May 11, 12, 13
2017 - May 10, 11, 12
2018 - May 9, 10, 11

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