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Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

2018 - H. Rhodes Hart, BA'54

rhodes hart

An extraordinary leader and philanthropist, H. Rodes Hart, BA’54, has helped position the university’s impact on society through education and has contributed to Vanderbilt’s ascendance among the nation’s elite universities.

Hart’s strong leadership helped steer the university through two historic transitions. As a member of the former George Peabody College for Teachers Board of Trust from 1967 to 1979, he played an integral role in the successful merger of Vanderbilt University and Peabody College. He then served until 2011 on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, for which he sat on its Audit, Budget, Investment, Public and Government Relations, Medical Center Board, Buildings and Grounds, and Executive committees. From 2008 to 2011, he was chair of the highly successful Shape the Future Campaign, which raised a record $1.94 billion to further Vanderbilt’s missions of education, discovery and patient care.

Hart’s leadership is matched by his tremendous generosity. He has been a driving force behind Peabody’s service to society through education and human development. With a deep belief in the importance of a world-class faculty, he and his wife, Patricia Hart, BA’57, have endowed numerous faculty chairs, positioning Vanderbilt to attract and retain the best possible talent. They also have created scholarships that have helped the university recruit the most talented and diverse students. Peabody’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier colleges for preparing teachers and leaders is, in many ways, due to the Harts’ generosity and partnership.

The Harts are also stalwarts in the Nashville community. Their passion for the arts and numerous nonprofit organizations in Nashville is visible throughout the city and has contributed significantly to its enhanced national reputation.

2017 - Perry E. Wallce, BE'70

perry wallace

As the first African American varsity basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, Perry Wallace, BE’70, was a renowned figure in the American Civil Rights Movement.

His contributions on the court and the importance of his trailblazing career have been recognized through induction into the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. His jersey was retired by Vanderbilt, he was named an SEC Living Legend and to the Silver Anniversary All-America team, and he was honored with the prestigious Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award.

For several years Wallace was a senior trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, handling cases involving environmental, energy and natural resources law. He served a three-year term on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology. Wallace was a professor at Howard University and the University of Baltimore before joining American University’s Washington College of Law in 1993 as a law professor specializing in environmental law, corporate law and finance. He also served as the director of the university’s JD/MBA dual degree program.

 2016 - Richard B. Johnston Jr., BA'57, MD'61

richard johnston

Richard B. Johnston Jr., BA’57, MD’61, is a renowned immunologist and pediatrician who has dedicated his life’s work to improving the health of children.

As national medical director of the March of Dimes, Johnston led an effort that has significantly reduced birth defects such as spina bifida. After medical research found that consuming folic acid prior to and during the early stages of pregnancy reduced the occurrence of neural tube defects, Johnston led a national folic acid public awareness campaign. He brought the nation’s obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians and nurses together to enlighten and educate women of childbearing age of the importance of folic acid in preventing certain birth defects. His leadership ultimately led to the Food and Drug Administration’s 1998 ruling to add folic acid to America’s grain supply, which has since significantly reduced neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the United States.


2014 - Dr. Harold "Hal" Moses, MD'62, HO'62, HO'63

harold moses

Dr. Harold “Hal” Moses, MD’62, the Hortense B. Ingram Chair in Cancer Research at Vanderbilt University, is the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award—the highest honor for a member of the Vanderbilt alumni community. Moses is a highly acclaimed international lecturer and world-renowned scholar in the field of cancer biology.

Much of Moses’s research career has been related to cellular activity and growth in breast cancer and the crucial discoveries from his research team have served as building blocks for other cancer scientists. His achievements have also been recognized with the 2013 American Association of Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research, the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research at Vanderbilt and the T.J. Martell Foundation Lifetime Achievement Medical Research Award.


2012 -Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, BA'79

nora tyson

Vice Director of the Joint Staff, first female commander of a naval carrier strike group.





2008 - Dr. Levi Watkins, MD'470

levi watkins

Groundbreaking cardiologist and pioneer in coronary heart disease.





2007 - Carol Ann Etherington, MSN'75

carol etherington

Human and health rights advocate.





2005 - The Reverend James M. Lawson, '71

james lawson

Renowned nonviolent theorist.





2004 - Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman, BA'43, MD'46, HO'48

mildred stahlman

Pioneer in neonatology.





2002 - Dr. Thomas Frist, BA'60, HO'65

thomas frist

One of the founders and former chairman of HCA Healthcare.





2000 - Dr. Antonio Gotto, BA'57, MD'65

antonio gotto

Dean of Cornell University Medical College.





1999 - Delbert Mann, BA'41

delbert mann

Oscar-winning director.





1998 - Cal Turner Jr., BA'62

cal turner

Former Dollar General CEO.





1997 - Dr. Norman E. Shumway, MD'49

norman shumway

Pioneer in heart transplants.





1996 - Muhammad Yunus, PhD'71

muhammad yunus

Nobel Prize winning Bangladeshi banker.






To learn more, and to nominate a deserving alumnus/na, visit our Awards Page