NASHVILLE, TN — On Saturday, April 16, 2016, the Board of Trustees officially conferred the Office of the President upon James E. K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D. during an Investiture Ceremony. A full week of activities culminated with an Inauguration Scholarship Gala featuring Anthony Anderson of ABC’s“Blackish.” A team of dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni and board members helped plan the week. The Inauguration Steering Committee was led by Co-Chairs Patricia Matthews-Juarez, Ph.D. and Mr. Robert Poole. President Hildreth and Mrs. Hildreth were honored and inspired by the show of support.
Here are some highlights from the week:
Faith Day. Inauguration week began on Sunday, April 10 with a worship service at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church. Rev. Robin Kimbrough, J.D., College Chaplain and Special Assistant to the President on United Methodist Church Af- fairs delivered the message to a church full of members and visiting Meharrians.
As a United Methodist Church-related school, Meharry stands proud of its history including the fact that Meharry held its first classes in the basement of Clark. This combined with the college’s motto, “Worship of God Through Service to Mankind,” made it seem fitting to begin the week of celebration on a spiritual note. Rev. Kimbrough delivered a powerful sermon on the importance of building one’s spiritual house on a solid foundation.
Congregants then participated in a ceremonial walk to the Meharry campus, led by Dr. Hildreth and first lady Phyllis D. K. Hildreth. The walk ended with a reception at The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. At the reception, the Meharry Voices introduced “Supposed to be Here,” a song written by Stephanie Sweet, M.D.’91 and Shannon Sanders, with Dr. Hildreth participating as a guest vocalist. All proceeds go to the Meharry Scholarship Fund.
Service Appreciation Day. Monday April 11th, Dr. Hildreth thanked members of the campus community for their hard work and dedication to Meharry in a series of meet-and-greet events held at several different locations on campus throughout the day, culminating in an ice cream social at the last location.
Falcon Fund Luncheon. On Wednesday, April 13th, the Falcon Fund was introduced with a day of conversations led by First Lady Hildreth with women from the other HBCU campuses – American Baptist College, Tennessee State University and Fisk University. The fund is named for the falcon because of its perseverance to exceed beyond perceived limitations with clear vision, determination and wisdom to evolve through any environment.
A formal luncheon provided the opportunity for more than 265 participants, mostly women, to participant in dialogue focused on three pillars – justice, service and health. Mrs. Hildreth convened leaders from each sector to discuss ways to help community members achieve optimal health by expanding the capacity to eliminate barriers to health care. The luncheon included a panel discussion about the many ways art, science and social justice can come together to improve communities and eliminate health disparities. Panelists included Amanda Williams, B.A., a trained architect and visual artist from Chicago; Danielle N. Lee, Ph.D.(@DNLee5), an animal behavior and behavioral ecology scientist from Cornell University and Renata Soto, M.S.(@RenataSotoTN), co- founder and executive director of Conexió n Américas, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville.
Engaging the Community for Men’s Health. A community forum discussing men’s health was also conducted on Wednesday to educate the community – especially men – about health disparities in the male population. Topics included the role of public policy in men’s health as well as examining unique medical aspects specific to men’s well–being. Dr. Kevin Billups of Johns Hopkins Medical Center served as guest speaker. The event was moderated by Dr. Derek Griffith of Vanderbilt University.
Interfaith Prayer Breakfast and Kim Burrell Concert. Recognizing Meharry’s role as an open, welcoming community to people of all backgrounds, an Interfaith Prayer Breakfast was served Thursday, April 14th, with religious leaders of different faiths praying for Dr. Hildreth, students, faculty, staff, employees and alumni.
Later that evening, gospel artist and Grammy nominee Kim Burrell performed at The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. The concert was hosted by Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones.
President’s Golf Tournament. On Friday, April 15th, Dr. Hildreth, alumni, faculty, staff and students demonstrated their skills on the golf course during the President’s Scholarship Golf Tournament: Golfing for a Cause held at Gaylord Spring Golf Links. Although Dr. Hildreth man- aged several birdies, in the end, a team of students won the tournament.
The Investiture. Dignitaries from around the globe attended Dr. Hildreth’s investiture as Meharry’s 12th President on Saturday, April 16th at The Temple Church in Nashville.
Representatives from each stage of Dr. Hildreth’s career reflected on their experiences. David L. Evans, senior admissions officer at Harvard University, distinctly recalled Dr. Hildreth’s undergraduate application. University of Oxford Professor Sir Andrew Mc- Michael told stories from Dr. Hildreth’s time in England as a Rhodes Scholar. And Morehouse School of Medicine’s President and Dean, Dr. Valarie Montgomery Rice, recalled Dr. Hildreth during the time he was director of the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research and she was director of the Center for Women’s Health Research and dean of the School of Medicine at Meharry.
Greetings were provided by U.S. Representative Jim Cooper; State Representative Brenda Gilmore; Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner, on behalf of Governor Bill Haslam; and Debby Dale Mason, chief of staff for Mayor Megan Barry. In addition, the Meharry Choir sang several musical selections.
During the ceremony, Drs. Frank S. Royal Sr., M.D. ‘68, Board Chair; Nelson L. Adams III, M.D. ‘78, Vice Chair and Mr. Milton H. Jones Jr., Vice Chair presented Dr. Hildreth with the college’s seal, mace and medallion – official symbols of the Office of the President. He then gave his inaugural address providing an over-view of his dynamic vision for Meharry.
After the ceremony, guests attended a reception at The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education.
Scholarship Gala. More than 750 guests gathered lat- er Saturday evening in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Nashville Hotel for the Inauguration Scholarship Gala. The event was hosted by Anthony Anderson, comedian and star of the ABC sitcom “Blackish.” Guests danced the night away to the music of the Higher Ground Band.
Dr. Hildreth dedicated his Inauguration to raising scholarship funds to help students manage the heavy debt burden of a health professions degree. The following donors were recognized for their commitments: Board of Trustees Chairman Frank S. Royal Sr., M.D. ’68 and Henry Moses, Ph.D., executive director of the Meharry National Alumni Association and professor emeritus of biochemistry, who each committed scholarship gifts of $1 million, and the Michael and Pamela Carter Charitable Fund with a generous donation of $100,000.
Meharry is well-known for training physicians who often choose to practice primary care in underserved areas. With the average cost of medical education exceeding $300,000, scholarships are particularly important in helping to ensure graduates can continue the college’s mission of meeting the healthcare needs of the underserved.