Vanderbilt University honors top scholars during Commencement

May 10, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt University’s top scholars in nine undergraduate and professional schools received Founder’s Medals during today’s Commencement exercises.

Since 1877, a gold medal has been awarded to the student graduating with first honors from each of Vanderbilt’s schools. These gold medals are called “Founder’s Medals” because Cornelius Vanderbilt made a specific contribution to endow the awards in their first year.

Chancellor Gordon Gee presented the Founder’s Medals to the following students:

Chris Walters of Jacksonville, Ill., Founder’s Medalist for the Blair School of Music, is among the first graduates with a major in musical arts/teacher education. He is the only graduate from the program to concentrate in vocal and general music. He has been elected to Phi Kappa Lambda, the music school equivalent to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and is a founding member of Vanderbilt’s chapter of the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity. In addition to his studies, Walters was involved with the Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir, Blair Chamber Choir and the Dodecaphonics, Vanderbilt’s only all male a cappella singing group. He served as music director for the Vanderbilt University Theatre’s production of “The Assassins” and composed a cantata based on the story of King David titled “The Lord is My Rock.” The project was funded by a Vanderbilt summer research program grant.

He will pursue a master’s degree in education at Peabody College.

Elbridge Samuel Chase IV of Chanhassen, Minn., Founder’s Medalist for the College of Arts and Science, graduated with high honors from the Department of Theatre. While at Vanderbilt, he received the Lee Blessing Award for creative writing, the Morgan Award for writing and most recently, the Cecil Jones Prize for Theatre, which recognizes superior academic performance and outstanding artistic contribution. He also served as co-founder and leader of the Vanderbilt Firewalkers, an academic event designed to explore conflicts between scientific and religious thinking through the experience of firewalking.

Jill Sawoski Shashaty of Southampton, Pa., Founder’s Medalist for the Divinity School, graduated from the joint law and divinity program offered through the Divinity School. While at Vanderbilt, she worked with Ecological Concerns, an organization seeking to raise awareness of environmental issues. She also worked with the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing and the Siloam Family Health Clinic. Prior to attending the Divinity School, she served as a volunteer teacher, drama director and school bus driver at the Red Cloud Lakota Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D.

Shashaty completed her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University.

Ibrahim Almojel of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Founder’s Medalist for the School of Engineering, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He has a double major in electrical engineering and mathematics with a minor in computer science. Almojel was first introduced to Vanderbilt through Preparatory Academics for Vanderbilt Engineers (PAVE), a multidisciplinary summer program created by the School of Engineering to introduce students to a university environment. While at Vanderbilt, he founded and served as president of the Middle Eastern Student Association and was a board member for both the Muslim Student Association and the International Awareness Committee. He is also the recipient of the 2002 Tomas M. Weser Award that recognizes an outstanding international student who has contributed to Vanderbilt’s intellectual and cultural communities.

He will pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering at Stanford University this fall.

Anne-Marie Moyes of San Francisco, Calif., Founder’s Medalist for the Vanderbilt School of Law, is program director for Reconciliation Ministries, where she provides counseling and support services for families of prisoners. While attending Vanderbilt, she continued her work with a variety of Nashville community organizations including the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, where she serves as president of the steering committee. She has also served as a member of the board of directors for the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley, Calif., and as a tutor to Cambodian refugees through the Cambodian New Generation organization in Oakland, Calif. Moyes did her undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University, where she completed an academic year in Paris, France.

Sarah Page Hammondof Berlin, Md., Founder’s Medalist for the School of Medicine, graduated having earned straight A’s in her required pre-clinical course, all honors in her clinical clerkships and a top score on Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. In recognition of her accomplishments at Vanderbilt, she was selected for membership in the Microbes and Defense Academic Society and inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and religion from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. During her time at Vanderbilt, Hammond conducted research with Jane Park, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, in the Department of Radiology. Their investigations have yielded two papers with a third on the way. In addition to her studies, Hammond also performed with “Biorhythms,” a women’s a cappella group.

Hammond will do her internship in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Lori Burch Ferranti of Natural Bridge Station, Va., Founder’s Medalist for the School of Nursing, completed a master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in health systems management. She also holds a master’s degree from the Owen Graduate School of Management and is currently pursuing a doctorate through the Management of Technology program at Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering. Ferranti earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical College of Virginia in 1998 and in the decade that followed spent her time working in rural communities with limited health-care resources, as well as working at Hospice of Boston. She recently received an appointment to the Center for Health Services Board, which serves elderly and less fortunate people in the Southeast.

Mara Judith Peskin of Charleston, S.C., Founder’s Medalist for the Owen Graduate School of Management, graduated with a concentration in marketing and general management with an emphasis in brand management. She received an Owen Merit Scholarship, was elected to Beta Gamma Sigma, the national honor society in business and management, and served as an officer for the Owen Marketing Association, Women’s Business Association and the Honor Council. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Emory University. Prior to attending Owen, Peskin worked as a senior assistant manager for Ann Taylor Inc., where she increased operating profits, store sales volume and customer loyalty through a relationship marketing campaign.

Peskin has accepted a position as associate brand manager with Georgia-Pacific Corporation in Atlanta.

Sabrina Zaman of Memphis, Tenn., Founder’s Medalist for Peabody College, completed a double major in early childhood education and early childhood special education in three years. She graduates with a 4.0 grade point average. Zaman has taught science to middle school students through Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS) and worked with “Word Up!,” a pre-reading tutoring program for inner city preschoolers. She spent her summers in Memphis, where she worked as a child care assistant at an early intervention center for infants and toddlers with disabilities. On campus, she has done service work with the Interfaith Council and served as secretary for the Muslim Students Association. She is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, Kappa Delta Epsilon education fraternity and the Gamma Beta Phi academic service honorary society.

Contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS

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