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Commencement Awards

Vanderbilt University does not confer honorary degrees. Instead, Vanderbilt awards the Nichols-Chancellor's Medal and the Founder's Medal.

Nichols-Chancellor's Medal

The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal Award Ceremony is held the day before Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony.chancellor-medals-drawing

The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal is awarded by Vanderbilt University to those persons who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit.  The Nichols Humanitarian Fund is a companion scholarship fund to the Nichols-Chancellor's Medal. The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal and Nichols Humanitarian Fund seek to make Vanderbilt students better members of their communities and society in general by supporting their humanitarian activities and bringing speakers to Vanderbilt who embody the best of humanity.

Previous Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal Winners


Founder's Medal

FoundersMedal back

Cornelius Vanderbilt’s gifts to the university included endowment of this award, given since 1877 for first honors in each graduating class. The medal is gold.

Obverse. The profile of Cornelius Vanderbilt is a replica of the one by sculptor Salathiel Ellis on the gold medal that was presented to the Commodore by action of Congress in 1864 to express the nation’s gratitude for the gift of his steamship, the Vanderbilt, to the government during the Civil War.

Reverse. The words “Founder’s Medal for First Honors” appear on the reverse of the medal with space below for the recipient’s name, date and the school or college to be engraved.

View past Founder’s Medalists.