class of 2015: Meharry Graduates receive degrees and best wishes before capacity audience at 140th commencement

SOM procession

Dr. Leonard Webster leads the way as medical students march into the ballroom to take their seats.

Meharry Medical College’s 140th Commencement, held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Saturday, May 16, 2015, was full to capacity as students from the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Graduate Studies and Research marched in along with those who were receiving their certificate in health policy from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

President and Chief Executive Officer, A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D., began the Commencement by saluting the Class of 2015 telling them they “are one of the brightest and smartest classes to ever graduate from Meharry.” She asked the students to applaud their faculty/professors for their teaching, mentoring and for giving them a quality education. Graduates then applauded their families and friends who helped get them to graduation day. James E.K. Hildreth, M.D., Ph.D., who will take the helm on July 1, 2015 as Meharry’s 12th president, was introduced to the audience by President Epps.

Frank S. Royal Sr., M.D. ’68 and chairman of the board of trustees, thanked Dr. Epps for her service as president and CEO and for being an “exceptional model” for all Meharrians.  

Dr. David SatcherThe Honorable David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, 16th U.S. Surgeon General and eighth president of Meharry Medical College, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. In his address, “Leadership Challenges and the Quest for Health Equity,” he asserted that Meharry has been on a quest for health equity for at least 140 years. “This whole issue of global health equity is very critical,” said Satcher. He went on to say that all of the graduates "have a responsibility to ensure everyone has access to optimal health care.”

Dr. Satcher told the audience that leadership is key to affecting change in society's approach to health care and health care equity. "It's important to care, but it's not enough; you must know enough to lead," Satcher said. “This requires a lifetime commitment to learning." He stated that Meharry cultivates leaders - leaders that go out into indigent communities and serve. Dr. Satcher noted that President John F. Kennedy, in his prepared speech for Dallas in 1963 before he was assassinated, had prepared to say, "Leadership is about learning and when leaders stop learning, they stop leading." At the end of his talk, Satcher challenged Meharry graduates to finish the race toward health equity which was met with thunderous applause.

After his address, Dr. Satcher was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Dr. Epps and Dr. Royal. In an unprecedented move, after Dr. Epps bestowed the honorary degree on Dr. Satcher, and before she could leave the stand and take her seat, Dr. Royal presented her with an honorary Doctor of Science degree thanking her for her sagacious leadership at the College.

Fred D. Parrot Jr., D.D.S. ’58 received an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the Commencement ceremony and Frank L. Williams, M.D. ’60, was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Dr. Parrot, now retired, practiced obstetrics and gynecology in the Los Angeles area and is founder and director of the “Real Men Cook” Foundation. Dr. Williams, a practicing psychiatrist, also in Los Angeles, is the executive vice president and medical director at Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital and Community Health Center.

Both Parrot and Williams are original members of the Guardians of Our Legacy, a group of loyal and generous alumni who have donated $100,000 or more to the College and who are also members of the Royal Society.       

Dr. Parrot has the distinct honor of being Meharry’s top living alumni donor and Dr. Williams is praised as being in the top five percent of living alumni supporters.