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Vanderbilt honors top scholars during Commencement

May. 9, 2003, 11:49 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt University’s top scholars in nine undergraduate and professional schools received Founder’s Medals during Commencement exercises on May 9. 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: Jennifer Bernard, of Ladysmith, Wis., Founder’s Medalist for the Blair School of Music, graduated with a performance major in oboe. While at Vanderbilt, she received the 2003 Elliot and Ailsa Newman Prize for excellence in performance and won the Blair Collegiate Concerto Competition this spring. She is the recipient of the Sigma Alpha Iota Scholastic Award and the L. Howard “Zeke” Nicar Award, which honors the most outstanding wind student at the Blair School. Bernard has had professional performance experience with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and the Tennessee Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. She earned a diploma with high honors in business French from the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2001 and is a member of French honor society Pi Delta Pi and music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda. After graduating, she will spend a year in France teaching English through the French Embassy’s teaching assistantship program. Lauren Parker, of La Vergne, Tenn., Founder’s Medalist for the College of Arts and Science, graduated with a major in chemistry and a minor in classics. Since her freshman year, she has been committed to scientific research at Vanderbilt and has participated in three summer research programs – Pfizer Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Vanderbilt Undergraduate Summer Research Program and the Howard Hughes Memorial Institute Fellowship. As part of these research programs, Parker attended seminar series, gave presentations and participated in poster sessions. She has been elected to the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in Tennessee and is member of Gamma Beta Phi, a national honor and service organization and the Mortar Board honor society. Parker has been awarded three post-graduate scholarships to study at the University of Cambridge in England – the British Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) Scholarship, a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship. She has accepted the LMB Scholarship to pursue a doctorate degree in structural biology at Cambridge. She will also continue her study of the classics this summer in a study abroad program in Greece offered through Austin Peay State University. Heather Renee Cash, of Princeton, Ky., Founder’s Medalist for the Divinity School, graduated with a master of theological studies degree. Cash entered Vanderbilt’s Divinity School after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in religion from Centre College in Kentucky. At Vanderbilt, her interest in the role of religion in the global community led her to travel during the 2002 fall semester to Chiang Mai, Thailand, as a Henry Luce Foundation intern from the Divinity School’s Field Education Department. At the New Life Center, a nonprofit agency in Chiang Mai, Cash worked with young girls from the Hill Tribes, the ethnic minorities living in the mountainous regions of northern Thailand. By teaching them basic life and work skills, she helped to provide the girls an alternative to a life of prostitution in Thailand’s sex industry. Cash’s internship has inspired her to move to Washington, D.C., where she hopes to apply her theological education on an international level in a nonprofit organization dedicated to women’s rights. She also plans to pursue a doctor of jurisprudence degree. Matthew Keller, of Bettendorf, Iowa, Founder’s Medalist for the School of Engineering and recipient of the George and Peggy Spiegel and Paul Harrawood honor scholarships, graduated with a major in biomedical engineering. He participated in Vanderbilt Volunteers for Science, a program in which undergraduate, graduate and professional students provide hands-on science activities for middle school students in several Metropolitan Nashville schools. He also served as co-president of the quiz bowl team and sang in the symphonic choir. He held leadership positions in the Biomedical Engineering Society, Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and the engineering council of the Student Government Association. In 2002, Keller was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding promise for future scientific research. This year, he was granted a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, which provided five years of support toward the completion of a doctorate degree. Keller plans to use his fellowship to remain at Vanderbilt to pursue advanced study in biomedical engineering, specifically biomedical optics. Jacob Sommer, of Raleigh, N.C., Founder’s Medalist for the Vanderbilt School of Law, made the Dean’s List every semester. He served as senior articles editor for the Vanderbilt Law Review and received several Vanderbilt Scholastic Excellence Awards, which are given to the person with the highest grade in a particular course. Sommer was honored for his scholastic excellence in the courses Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law-I, Constitutional Law-II and Legal Process. A member of the Vanderbilt Law School Ambassadors, he also worked to further enhance the Law School’s reputation through activities both inside and outside the classroom. Sommer plans to join the law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough in Charleston, S.C. Kevin Robert Kozak, of Milwaukee, Wis., Founder’s Medalist for the School of Medicine, graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University. Having attended Harvard on a Navy ROTC scholarship, Kozak fulfilled his military service as a naval intelligence officer during which he analyzed raw intelligence data to determine risk to Navy aviators. He was recognized with a Navy Achievement Medal and a Navy Commendation Medal. After his Navy service, Kozak entered the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program. In addition to his M.D. studies, he also earned a doctorate degree in biochemistry and was the recipient of the Cunningham Award for the best graduate student in biochemistry. His achievements also earned him membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. He also made time for community service activities at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and with the Big Brothers program. Kozak will do a transitional internship year at Boston University Medical Center followed by residency in radiation oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Deanna Pilkenton, of Centerville, Ohio, Founder’s Medalist for the School of Nursing, graduated with a Nurse-Midwifery Specialty. While at Vanderbilt, she received three merit scholarships, the Kathleen Suzanne Nelson Scholarship, Valerie Potter Memorial Scholarship and the Hilliard Travis Scholarship. In 2002, Pilkenton was recognized as National Health Service Corp SEARCH Scholar for her commitment to providing primary care in underserved populations and was selected by the nursing faculty as Outstanding Student in Nurse-Midwifery Program. Prior to entering Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing, Pilkenton graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology from Centre College in Kentucky. Her previous career experiences includes work as an emergency homeless shelter director in Lafayette, Ind., a bilingual case manager for at-risk youth and families in San Diego, Calif., a researcher for the nonprofit organization Witness for Peace where she conducted grant-funded research on co
mmunity development programs in Nicaragua and as a caregiver at the Kalighat Home for the Destitute and Dying, located in Calcutta, India, and founded by Mother Teresa. Pilkenton currently works as a registered nurse at the East End Women’s Health and Birth Center in Nashville. Edward Hunt Guilbert III, of Peachtree City, Ga., Founder’s Medalist for the Owen Graduate School of Management, graduates with a dual concentration in finance and operations. While at the Owen School, he was the recipient of the Bruce D. Henderson Award for highest honors during his first year in the MBA program, elected to the Beta Gamma Sigma national business administration honor society and was a member of the Finance Club and the Global Business Club. Prior to joining the Owen School, Guilbert received his undergraduate education at Vanderbilt graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He previously worked at The Archon Group, a unit of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as an associate in Portfolio Management and Structured Finance. Last summer, he interned with The Archon Group in Milan, Italy – adding to his international experience in Germany, France and England. Guilbert has accepted a full time position in the Real Estate Investments Division of The Archon Group in Dallas, Texas. Ashley Black, of Auburn, Ala., Founder’s Medalist for Peabody College, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and child development. While at Vanderbilt, she was active in Campus Crusade for Christ and worked as a tutor for children from age four to 4th grade through Imagine College (formerly Project GRAD), an education partnership of Metro Schools, Vanderbilt and the Inner City Education Foundation. This week, she also received the Outstanding Professional Promise in Early Childhood Education Award, which is awarded by Peabody to a graduating senior who shows exceptional promise as a teacher of young children. Black currently works as a kindergarten teacher at the Caldwell Early Childhood Education Center in the Metro Nashville public school system.

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