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Giving in Action: A Shared Purpose…Then and Now

Posted by Connie Harris  on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 in Alumni News, Fall 2022, Giving in Action, Vanderbilt Community .

When Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Class of 1997 alumni Matt and Carol Kikkawa Hook connected with Vanderbilt to discuss charitable support, they had no intention of serving as class chairs for their 25th Reunion. They simply focused on exploring how their giving could make a difference.

As discussions continued, they learned that the 1997 School of Medicine Class Scholarship fund was one of the smallest on record, and they felt they had been issued a personal challenge.

“Our class was special; our classmates meant so much to one another,” Matt said. “We felt the Class of ‘97 should not go unaccounted for when it came to the class scholarship, so we decided to organize charitable contributions to give back for all we got in training.”

With mentorship from the Class of 1978, who had success with their own class scholarship, the Hooks began contacting classmates with Carol working the phones.

“There were calls where I would talk to old friends for an hour,” she said. “The response was so positive, and we caught up on one another’s lives.”

Carol shared details about their three children, Matt’s cardiology practice in Raleigh, North Carolina, and how she moonlighted in emergency departments while growing their life and family. She learned about others’ families and career success.

They remembered their time in Nashville. Carol lived with four classmates in what was dubbed the “Pink Palace” because the walls throughout were pink. As a class, they attended barbecues and learned to line dance and two-step together. Matt and Carol were married near campus in Wightman Chapel.

They marveled at the unique dedication of their faculty members — notably Dean John Chapman, Dean Deborah German and Robert Collins, MD — and the excellent educational experiences. They resoundingly remembered those four years of medical school as some of the best of their lives — ones of true camaraderie and support.

“It wasn’t cutthroat, where you felt like anyone wanted you to fail so they could succeed,” Matt said.

“The faculty cared so much about the curriculum and the students,” Carol added. “It helped us, as students, care about it and truly learn it.”

As conversations pivoted from personal updates to current purpose, the classmates asked how they could bolster the Hooks’ efforts, and the class was eager to help support other future Vanderbilt physicians. For the group, the scholarship fund provides clarity of purpose for their philanthropy.

“The scholarship gives the gifts life and breath — the money is very much alive in another person who will become a physician,” Matt said.

As former students and then clinicians working alongside other doctors trained at both Vanderbilt and at other institutions, the members of the Class of 1997 have a clear picture of the value of a Vanderbilt medical education. With their gifts, they formed this scholarship — now, one of the largest on record — as a collective legacy.