“Kite Runner” author to speak during Vanderbilt University’s Commencement

Khaled Hosseini, author of bestselling books The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, will receive Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal in May 2010 when he will address graduating seniors and their families during Senior Day.

Senior Day, which will be held May 13, precedes Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony for graduating seniors on May 14, and is a highlight of three days of activities honoring graduates, their families and friends.

“Certainly, learning does not stop with Commencement and Khaled Hosseini’s personal story and humanitarian work provide an excellent lesson for our students to take with them as they embark on a new journey as college graduates,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “Khaled Hosseini is a worthy recipient of the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal.”

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal, which includes a cash prize, is one of the university’s highest honors and 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.

Born in Afghanistan, Hosseini, the oldest of five children, grew up in Kabul where his father worked for the Afghan foreign ministry and his mother was a teacher. The family later moved to Paris where Hosseini’s father was assigned a diplomatic post in the Afghan embassy. While they were in France, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan prompting Hosseini’s father to obtain political asylum and move his family to the United States.

Hosseini attended Santa Clara University and later graduated from the University of California-San Diego’s School of Medicine. He entered medical practice as an internist in 1996.

His first novel, The Kite Runner, was released in 2003. In 2004, he put his medical career on hold and now divides his time between writing, his family and working as a goodwill envoy for the UNHCR – the U.N. Refugee Agency to help raise awareness about refugees around the world. He also works to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.

Hosseini’s most recent novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was released in 2007.

“Dr. Hosseini is a fantastic storyteller who, through his writing and work on behalf of refugees, will provide interesting insights for our graduates and their families against the backdrop of current events in Afghanistan,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty said.

Previous Senior Day speakers have been Condoleezza Rice, Shirin Ebadi, Laura Bush, Muhammad Yunus, Bob Geldof and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Senior Day address by Hosseini will be held at 10 a.m. in Memorial Gymnasium.

For updates on Senior Day and other events, visit Vanderbilt’s new Commencement website that will launch in mid-December at www.vanderbilt.edu/commencement.

Media contact: Princine Lewis, 615-322-NEWS