Toni Morrison to be Senior Day Speaker at Vanderbilt

Toni Morrison Vanderbilt Commencement Speaker
Toni Morrison (Angela Radulescu)

Writer Toni Morrison will be the 2013 Senior Day speaker at Vanderbilt University and recipient of the university’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal.

Morrison, a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a novelist with works including Beloved, Song of Solomon and Jazz to her credit. She will address graduating Vanderbilt seniors and their families 11 a.m. May 9 in Memorial Gymnasium, one day prior to Commencement. The speech will be streamed live on the Vanderbilt News website.

“Toni Morrison is an American literary treasure who has illuminated the struggles and triumphs of fellow citizens who might have gone unheard without her efforts,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “She is a profoundly worthy recipient of the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and our seniors are sure to benefit greatly from her insightful perspective which illuminates our common humanity.”

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal, which includes a cash award, 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 Lorain, Ohio, Morrison is a graduate of Howard University and earned her master’s degree from Cornell University. She published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970. Her second, Sula, was nominated for an American Book Award.

She wrote two more novels (Song of Solomon and Tar Baby) before publishing Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey. Her most recent novel is Home.

Senior Day precedes Vanderbilt’s annual Commencement ceremony for graduating seniors on Friday, May 10, and is a highlight of three days of activities honoring graduates, their families and friends.

Previous Senior Day speakers include Muhammad Yunus, Bob Geldof, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Khaled Hosseini, Wangari Maathai and Tom Brokaw.