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Nobel Peace Prize laureate to deliver Senior Class Day address
by Jim Patterson
Vanderbilt University will award its second Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and a $100,000 prize to Muhammad Yunus, a Vanderbilt alumnus and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. The micro-lending pioneer will accept the award when he visits Vanderbilt on May 10 to serve as the keynote speaker for Senior Class Day.
“It is with great joy that we anticipate the return of Muhammad Yunus to Vanderbilt for his first visit since he won the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Chancellor Gordon Gee. “The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal is meant to exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit, and the accomplishments of Muhammad Yunus are a tremendous example for all of us. His story is a dramatic example of how one person with a great idea can impact the world.”
Yunus developed the concept of micro-credit and founded the Grameen Bank, which has improved the lives of millions in his native Bangladesh through small loans to fund enterprises and buy livestock.
Yunus earned a Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt in 1971 through the Graduate Program in Economic Development. The Grameen (which means “rural” in Bengali) Bank began in the village of Jobra in 1976, when Yunus lent $27 to 42 self-employed crafts workers. He reasoned that if money were made available to poor people on appropriate and reasonable terms, “these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder.” The Grameen Bank has since loaned nearly $6 billion to 6.61 million borrowers, and 99 percent of the loans have been repaid. The bank provides services in more than 71,000 villages in Bangladesh through 2,226 branches.
In October 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Yunus and the Grameen Bank.
“Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to turn visions into practical actions for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh but also in many other countries,” said Ole Danbolt Mjos, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, during the Nobel ceremony in December. “There are now micro-credit programs in nearly 100 countries all over the world.”
The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal was created and endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols. Last year, first lady Laura Bush accepted the first Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal on behalf of rescue workers who responded to natural disasters around the world.
Senior Class Day is held the day before Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony. It begins with the traditional Senior Walk through the main gates of the university, followed by a program on Alumni Lawn.
Yunus’ address will take place at 10 a.m. on Alumni Lawn. Tickets are free, but supplies are limited. All graduating students may enter Alumni Lawn by showing their Vanderbilt IDs. Graduating seniors may reserve up to five additional tickets.
Graduate and professional students may reserve up to two additional tickets. Faculty and staff may reserve up to two tickets, while supplies last. To reserve tickets, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/commencement and select “Click here for tickets.”
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