News & Events

Commencement 2020: Celebrating Together

May 3, 2021
Neil Ramsey (MBA'83), delivers remarks to Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management’s Class of 2020

By Nathaniel Luce


Dean Eric Johnson and Neil Ramsey

Nashville, Tenn.  Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management celebrated Commencement Day ceremonies for its Class of 2020 on Sunday, May 2. Gathered on Recreation Field 3, students who earned the Master of Business Administration (MBA); Master of Finance (MSF); Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree; Master of Marketing (MMark) degree; Executive MBA (EMBA) degree; and Master of Management in Health Care (MMHC) degree participated in the ceremony.

M. Eric Johnson, the Ralph Owen Dean and Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy, opened the day’s ceremonies with a reflection on the challenges the Class of 2020 faced. “We’ve all been living through unbelievable crisis,” he said. “Through it all, this class exhibited unprecedented strength and resilience. You’ve not just survived, you’ve thrived. I’m proud that we’re here to celebrate you in person.”

Commencement speaker Neil Ramsey (MBA’83, BA’82), CEO & Chief Investment Officer, shared a personal framework he dubbed “Neil’s 3 N’s for living” — Next, Now, and Never — and how recent events in his life reinforced the significance of Now. “Now is really important, and it’s more than just being present,” he said. “Enjoy today. Today can truly enhance your peace of mind in the future and it’s what allows you to build deep lasting bonds with the people you are with.”

“You are in an amazing time of your life,” he continued. “You are neither young nor old, and you get to stay in that state for at least another 30 to 35 years….You have 35 years to go very deep and build very special ties and constructs. There is so much for each of you to be looking forward to.”

Play Icon Watch the Commencement Address

Transcript Icon Transcript of Commencement Address

Camera Icon View Photos from Commencement Activities

Awards and Recognition for Graduating Students


Joshua Andrew Bruner, Founders Medalist

Joshua Andrew Bruner (MBA’20) was awarded the Founder’s Medal for the Owen School. This award, originally endowed by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1877, is given to the MBA graduate who achieves the strongest record in personal, professional, and academic performance.



Awards and Recognition for Faculty

Dean M. Eric Johnson announced the recipients of the James A. Webb Excellence in Teaching Award, EMBA Faculty Teaching Award, and Dean’s Faculty Awards:


Brian McCannBrian McCann, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, received the James A. Webb Excellence in Teaching Award.




Brian McCannBrian McCann, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, received the EMBA Faculty Teaching award.




Kelly Goldsmith

Kelly Goldsmith

Kelly Goldsmith, Associate Professor of Marketing, received the Dean’s Award for Teaching Innovation for her significant contributions to teaching and learning.



Bart Victor

Bart Victor, Cal Turner Chair in Moral Leadership, Emeritus, received the Dean’s Research Impact Award in recognition of his significant impact in a discipline or field arising from a body of scholarly research.



Yasin Alan

Yasin Alan, Hans Stoll Professor of Finance, received the Dean’s Award for Research Productivity.



Other awards and recognition

2020 graduate receiving diploma

2020 graduate walking across the stage to receive her diploma

Several other students were recognized for their achievements during the ceremony:

  • William Vincent Szymczak (MBA’20) received the Matt Wigginton Leadership Award, awarded for outstanding performance in finance.
  • Brittany Hunter (MBA’20) was presented with the H. Igor Ansoff Award, which recognizes original and creative contributions to the school.
  • Katherine Mary Smigelski (MBA’20) was awarded the Flournoy A. Coles Jr. Prize in recognition of international studies.
  • Brian Kim Baird (MBA’20) was chosen to receive the Financial Executives Institute Award for outstanding academic performance in both accounting and finance.
  • Hayden Margaret Mahaney (MAcc’20) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Accountancy.
  • Michael Joseph Graehler, Jr. (MSF’20) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Science in Finance.
  • Sienna Aboud (MMark’20) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Marketing.
  • Nikila Ravi (EMBA’20) received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in the Executive MBA program.
  • Stanislava (Stella) Vazna (EMBA’20) received the Martin S. Geisel Award for Leadership in the Executive MBA program.

Twenty-one graduating students were presented with the Owen Service Award for outstanding effort and energy in leadership, community involvement, and student life. They are:

  • Daisuke Akimoto (MBA’20)
  • Kathryn Bennett (MBA’20)
  • Gus Gordon Brand (MBA’20)
  • Julia Dickinson Bridgforth (MMark’20)
  • Benjamin Burkeen (MBA’20)
  • Kookchul Cha (MBA’20)
  • Rabo Garba (MBA’20)
  • Shanah Leigh Gaskill (MBA’20)
  • Mallory RuthAnn Hall (MBA’20)
  • Brenna Rachel Hoffman (MBA’20)
  • Neel Ajit Joshi (MSF’20)
  • Keara Brett Kelly (MBA’20)
  • Cali Piper Livingstone (MBA’20)
  • Laura Michelle Maguire (MBA’20)
  • Eleanor Grace McBrier (MBA’20)
  • Emily Jane Murray (MBA’20)
  • Julie O’Mara (MBA’20)
  • Jonathan Christian Schaefer  (MAcc’20)
  • Katherine Mary Smigelski (MBA’20)
  • Ryan Christopher Smith (MBA’20)
  • Carolyn Else Williams (MBA’20)


2020 Graduates


Contact Person: Nate Luce Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Contact Phone: 615.322.3469
Contact Email:

Other Stories

Which program is right for you?