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Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College, to Deliver Address at 160th Commencement

February 13, 2017
Dr. James E. K. Hildreth

Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, will be the commencement speaker at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary’s 160th Commencement service on May 12, 2017. Hildreth will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. The commencement service will begin at 10:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Evanston.

A leader in the effort to engage churches and faith leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Hildreth is internationally renowned for his research demonstrating the importance of cholesterol and specialized membrane regions containing cholesterol in HIV infection. Hildreth began research on HIV and AIDS in 1986 and his research has been funded by grants through the National Institute of Health (NIH) for nearly two decades. He is also the recipient of a major grant from the Center for Disease Control to support his HIV prevention and treatment in partnership with church leaders.

Hildreth has received many accolades throughout his illustrious career in the medical field, including being elected to the National Academy of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious biomedical and health policy advisory group in the United States. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars and in 2011 he received the National Institute of Health Director’s Pioneer Award. Throughout his career he has been honored with numerous awards for mentoring, leadership, and efforts related to diversity.

Reflecting on the first time she heard Hildreth lecture, Dr. Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical, said, “I was most fortunate to attend a lecture at Meharry last fall given by Dr. Hildreth during a United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry meeting. I was at once moved by his story, his humility, and by the life of public service he has led – a life I recognized was also infused with the seminary’s values and with our commitment to equip our graduates to work for the well-being of all persons. Dr. Hildreth is a remarkable man, animated by a spirit of care for others. We are very excited and honored that he will be our commencement speaker this year!”

In 2002, Hildreth became the first African-American in the 125-year history at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to earn full professorship with tenure in the basic sciences. He later served as director of the NIH-funded Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry Medical College, a United Methodist related institution and the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center. Hildreth was appointed as dean of the College of Biological Sciences at University of California, Davis, in 2011, becoming the first African-American dean at the university since it was founded in 1905. Hildreth returned to Meharry Medical College in 2015 to serve in his current role as president & CEO.

Born and raised in Camden, Arkansas, Hildreth began undergraduate studies at Harvard University in 1975 and became the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas in 1978. Upon graduating Harvard magna cum laude in chemistry, he attended Oxford University in England and completed the doctor of philosophy degree in immunology. He returned to the United States to attend Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he received the doctor of medicine degree in 1987.

Hildreth is married to Phyllis Drennon King and they have two children, Sophia and James.