Vanderbilt University’s Class of 2016 will get timely and wise advice from journalist Soledad O’Brien during their Commencement and Senior Day activities May 11th through the 13th. Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos will address the graduating class during the annual Commencement event on Friday, May 13. It is a long-standing tradition on Vanderbilt’s campus that the address to the graduates and their families be given by their institutional leader, the chancellor.
Soledad O’Brien, an outstanding television journalist and noted philanthropist, will receive the Nichols -Chancellor’s Medal in a ceremony on Thursday morning, May 12. Then she will deliver an address to the graduates as part of the college’s Senior Day. O’Brien’s Vanderbilt talk is entitled “Giving ‘Til it Helps: How Covering War, Tragedies and Natural Disasters Taught Me the Value of Giving.”
Born María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien, she has won numerous Emmy awards, including those for her reporting on an earthquake in Haiti and the 2012 presidential election. Her company Starfish Media Group is dedicated to probing issues like race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity.
On Senior Day Thursday, May 12, O’Brien will speak in Memorial Gym beginning at 11 a.m., after chancellor Zeppos confers her with the 2016 Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal. The prize, endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack Nichols and Lucile Hamby Nichols, is given annually to an individual or individuals who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit.
Later on Senior Day, four Vanderbilt faculty members will conduct hour-long seminars for graduates, families and guests. Topics include digital games and education, caves as a source of anti-cancer drugs, and 19th-century American classical music. The seminars will take place in Wilson Hall.
The Party, an annual dance for graduates and their families, will take place from 9 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, May 11, on the Commons Center Lawn. Charles Esten, an actor and musician who is cast as musician Deacon Claybourne on the television show Nashville, will provide music, as will the band SIXWIRE from the same show. The Downtown Band will follow with music for dancing. Tickets are $20, with each graduate getting a ticket for free. The Party is sold out.
Commencement begins at 9 a.m. on Alumni Lawn; it will be held in Memorial Gym if there is inclement weather. Chancellor Zeppos will deliver his parting message to students and their friends and families before Vanderbilt Provost Susan R. Wente joins him to confer undergraduate degrees. Those receiving graduate and professional school degrees will leave Alumni Lawn for degree ceremonies elsewhere on campus.
Approximately 2,800 students are expected to attend Commencement, with an estimated 1,750 receiving undergraduate degrees and about 1,000 getting graduate degrees. The main Commencement ceremony will be broadcast live on campus in Sarratt Cinema, Neely Auditorium and in Rand Dining Center. For those who cannot make the trip, video of the ceremony will be streamed live on the Vanderbilt homepage.