Distinguished Alumni Recognized

two african american women holding awards and hugging an older white male
l-r, Roblin Webb Boxill, Dr. Robert Wild, and Vicki Gilmore Palmer

Annual awards were presented at Rhodes College’s Alumni Convocation on Oct. 24 during Homecoming/Reunion Weekend. Vicki Gilmore Palmer '75 received the Distinguished Alumni Award; Roblin Webb Boxill '99, the Black Student Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award; and Dr. Robert Wild '66, the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Distinguished Alumni Award 
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has brought honor to Rhodes College through extraordinary achievement in his or her profession and community.  

Vicki Gilmore Palmer graduated from Southside High School in Memphis as valedictorian and was recruited by an economics and business professor to attend Rhodes. She majored in economics and business administration and co-chaired the Black Student Association as well as served as a member of the Student and Campus Life Committee of the Board of Trustees.

After graduation, Palmer began her professional career at First Tennessee Bank, where she became the first African-American and the first woman to serve as chief lending officer. While working full time, she earned an MBA in finance from the University of Memphis.

Palmer went on to become a financial management executive at Federal Express and eventually moved to Atlanta, where she became the manager of pension investments for the Coca-Cola Company. When Coca-Cola Enterprises was launched in 1986, Palmer was named assistant treasurer and rose to become the executive vice president for financial services and administration. A versatile executive, she has been able to balance a range of civic and personal responsibilities as a mother, community leader, and member of several boards.

As an alumna, Palmer has generously contributed to Rhodes, serving on its Board of Trustees, assisting with minority student recruitment efforts, securing scholarships and job opportunities for students, and assisting with the establishment of Rhodes’ new Black Alumni Chapter. In 2001, she and her husband created the A. Benson Gilmore Memorial Service Award to benefit minority students with financial need who have demonstrated experience in and commitment to community service.  

Black Student Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award 
Established in 1998, the Black Student Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes African-American alumni whose record of outstanding personal achievement and service to others has inspired Rhodes students and brought honor to their alma mater. 

Roblin Webb Boxill came to Rhodes from Camden, AR, and majored in urban studies. Not only was she highly involved in the Black Student Association, but also she served as chapter president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., served as a Rhodes Student Ambassador for Alumni Relations, helped recruit new students as a Diplomat for the Office of Admissions, worked as a resident advisor, and served as a student trustee on the college’s Board of Trustees.

After attending Rutgers University, Boxill obtained a Juris Doctorate and Masters of Politics and Public Affairs. She practiced law for a short period of time before taking a position as deputy director for the Memphis branch of New Leaders for New Schools, a national nonprofit organization focused on the transformation of urban public schools.

In addition, she became a fellow in the Building Excellent Schools program and traveled around the country observing the everyday practices of high-performing schools. In 2009, she founded Freedom Preparatory Academy with the goal of  “creating a pathway for students to follow to ensure they are well prepared to excel in college and in life.”

From one small school in Memphis’ Westwood community, Freedom Preparatory Academy has expanded to three locations with more than 1,000 students and is planning to grow to seven schools in the coming years. It also has been recognized by the state of Tennessee for its student academic growth.  

The Volunteer of the Year Award 
The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has gone to exceptional lengths to advance the Rhodes Vision.  

In addition to dutiful service on the Alumni Association Executive Board, Dr. Robert Wild has worked tirelessly on the Campaign for Rhodes to raise money for the expansion and renovation of the college’s science facilities. A Rhodes biology major and retired physician, he passionately believes that those who have benefited the most from the college’s top-notch sciences education should consider giving back to the institution and the program, to ensure that future students can also experience a first-class sciences education at Rhodes.

Through many hundreds of letters, phone calls, and hours of work, Wild reached out to alumni whose careers in the health professions were launched at Rhodes and invited them to share in a commemorative naming opportunity as part of a visible lasting legacy of support.

Rhodes Director of Planned Giving Nicki Soule says, “Bob is tireless in his support of Rhodes. His positive energy, enthusiasm, and sense of humor make him a joy to work with. Bob never stops thinking about ways in which we can improve the future for our college and, most importantly, for our students.” 

Now, thanks to his hard work, generations of Rhodes students will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and the increased learning opportunities that will result.