Distinguished Alumni Award Winners


In 1996 the Alumni Association of Vanderbilt University began periodically granting the Distinguished Alumnus/a Award, not only to honor worthy recipients, but also to inspire students and alumni.

The Distinguished Alumnus/a Award is bestowed on an alumnus/a who meets these criteria:

  • His/her accomplishments and contributions have had the broadest possible impact and a positive effect on humankind.
  • He/she has made a choice to go beyond a successful vocation to do something of greater benefit for the universal community.

We encourage alumni, faculty and staff to nominate deserving alumni for this award.


2016 – Richard B. Johnston Jr. (BA’57, MD’61)

2016 – Richard B. Johnston Jr. (BA’57, MD’61)Richard B. Johnston Jr., BA’57, MD’61, is a renowned immunologist and pediatrician who has dedicated his life’s work to improving the health of children.

As national medical director of the March of Dimes, Johnston led an effort that has significantly reduced birth defects such as spina bifida. After medical research found that consuming folic acid prior to and during the early stages of pregnancy reduced the occurrence of neural tube defects, Johnston led a national folic acid public awareness campaign. He brought the nation’s obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians and nurses together to enlighten and educate women of childbearing age of the importance of folic acid in preventing certain birth defects. His leadership ultimately led to the Food and Drug Administration’s 1998 ruling to add folic acid to America’s grain supply, which has since significantly reduced neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the United States.

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2014 - Dr. Harold “Hal” Moses (MD’62)

2014 - Dr. Harold “Hal” Moses (MD’62)Dr. Harold “Hal” Moses, MD’62, the Hortense B. Ingram Chair in Cancer Research at Vanderbilt University, is the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award—the highest honor for a member of the Vanderbilt alumni community. Moses is a highly acclaimed international lecturer and world-renowned scholar in the field of cancer biology.

Much of Moses’s research career has been related to cellular activity and growth in breast cancer and the crucial discoveries from his research team have served as building blocks for other cancer scientists. His achievements have also been recognized with the 2013 American Association of Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research, the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research at Vanderbilt and the T.J. Martell Foundation Lifetime Achievement Medical Research Award.

2012 - Rear Admiral Nora Tyson (BA'79)

2012 - Rear Admiral Nora Tyson (BA'79)Vice Director of the Joint Staff, first female commander of a naval carrier strike group

2008 - Dr. Levi Watkins (MD'70)

2008 - Dr. Levi Watkins (MD'70)Groundbreaking cardiologist and pioneer in coronary heart disease research

2007 - Carol Ann Etherington (MSN'75)

2007 - Carol Ann Etherington (MSN'75)Health and human rights advocate

2005 - The Reverend James M. Lawson ('60)

2005 - The Reverend James M. Lawson ('60)Renowned nonviolent theorist

2004 - Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman (BA'43, MD'46, HO'48)

2004 - Dr. Mildred T. Stahlman (BA'43, MD'46, HO'48)Pioneer in neonatology

2002 - Dr. Thomas F. Frist (BA'61)

2002 - Dr. Thomas F. Frist (BA'61)One of the founders and former chairman of HCA

2000 - Dr. Antonio Gotto (BA'57, MD'65)

2000 - Dr. Antonio Gotto (BA'57, MD'65)Dean of Cornell Univ. Medical College

1999 - Delbert Mann (BA'41)

1999 - Delbert Mann (BA'41)Oscar-winning director

1998 - Cal Turner Jr. (BA'62)

1998 - Cal Turner Jr. (BA'62) Former Dollar General CEO

1997 - Dr. Norman E. Shumway (MD'49)

1997 - Dr. Norman E. Shumway (MD'49) Pioneer in heart transplants

1996 - Muhammad Yunus (PhD'71)

1996 - Muhammad Yunus (PhD'71)Nobel Prize winning Bangladeshi banker