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Nichols-Chancellor Award Recipient & Graduates Day Speaker


NC MedalThe 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.

In 2006, Vanderbilt Law School graduate Edward Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols, created and endowed The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal. The medal is one of the university’s highest honors.  

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.

The individual on whom this prestigious award is bestowed is asked to speak on Graduates Day, which is held the day before Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony. This year, the Nichols-Chancellor's Medal is awarded to Caroline Kennedy.  


Caroline Kennedy
May 7, 2020

Memorial Gym

Caroline Kennedy11 a.m. – Noon (Doors open at 9:30 a.m.)

Best-selling author, attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy will receive Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal in May 2020, when she speaks to the university’s graduating students and their families. Kennedy’s address will take place on Graduates Day, which is May 7, at Memorial Gymnasium. The event, previously known as Senior Day, is being renamed Graduates Day to be more inclusive to all Vanderbilt students, including graduate, professional and undergraduate students, who will earn a degree the following day.

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

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, has dedicated her life to public and philanthropic service. Kennedy was the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan when she was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013. During her tenure, she helped realize the U.S. military’s return of nearly 10,000 acres on Okinawa to the Japanese government and played a pivotal role in President Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima. She was also an advocate for Japanese women in business and politics.

Kennedy has authored, co-authored or edited more than a dozen books on American history, politics, constitutional law, and poetry. Among her eleven New York Times bestsellers are: She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems, A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children and The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Kennedy has been active in school reform efforts. From 2002 through 2011, she served as vice-chair of the Fund for Public Schools, an organization dedicated to engaging the private sector in school reform. 

She is the honorary president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and honorary chair of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Harvard University Institute of Politics.

Kennedy earned a bachelor of arts from Harvard University and a law degree from Columbia University. 

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.
  • 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 Eastside 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 Nichols-Chancellor's Medalists & Speakers »