Friendship leads to prank – prank leads to legend
Yoda's legend revealed
He survived 10 years, two deans, two chancellors, periodic debate about his appropriateness, and one or two relocations. Now, just weeks after his portrait was removed from 208 Light Hall, the legend of Yoda is revealed.
All good things must come to an end. And while both the positive and negative attributes of his presence in 208 Light Hall were the subject of debate, few can deny Yoda was a darned good prank.
Yoda made his first appearance during Anatomy 101 class, around Halloween 2001. A poster of the fictional, green-skinned Jedi master from “Star Wars,” portrayed in pointy ears and dingy robes, was placed in a frame and hung on the brick wall alongside oil paintings of past
leaders of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
After nearly a decade of anonymity, the identities of the students who put him there as a prank are revealed. Michael Kinzer, M.D., MPH, and José Hagan, M.D., M.S., members of the Class of 2006, were perhaps best known for their love of adventure and infectious diseases. But the 2004-2005 Fogarty Scholars say they were always looking for an opportunity to pull off a good stunt.
Driven by rascality, Kinzer and Hagan purchased the poster of Yoda at a clearance sale, selecting it for its appropriately austere color scheme and tone, and placed it in a distressed frame from a flea market painting. They snuck into Light Hall’s first-year lecture room before dawn for what they imagined would be a short-lived guffaw.
“My roommate, Jesse Shaver, came along to take care of any witnesses. The plan was to quietly sit back the next morning and watch 100 double-takes. We were both somewhat disappointed and delighted to see that nobody noticed at first. I think I bet Mike it would be up for a whole week before we had to go sit in Dean Miller’s office,” Hagan said.
In fact Senior Associate Dean Bonnie Miller, M.D., did notice, but not until the white coat ceremony in August of 2002 when Hagan upped the ante by moving Yoda to a more prominent spot in the ceremonial 208 auditorium.
Miller recalls it this way: “It was hanging when I arrived in Light Hall around 7 a.m. We took it down, but somehow within 15 minutes it was back up again. At that point we decided to let it go and take our chances. Both (former Dean) Gabbe and (former Vice-Chancellor) Jacobson thought it was funny.”
Scott Rodgers, M.D., associate dean for Medical Student Affairs, says he not only accepted Yoda, he used him as a recruitment tool.
“I would point it out because it speaks to the sense of humor that the students have and that all of us have at Vanderbilt and our ability to poke fun at ourselves and laugh a little bit and just enjoy life,” Rodgers said.
Now the prank has finally come to a close. Plans for a Gallery of Innovation are under way, which will spotlight the prominence of Vanderbilt’s Nobel Laureates. While the details of the gallery are being worked out, Yoda was removed from the wall and can be found in the medical student lounge. Current students say they welcome the refugee Jedi.
“He has inspired years of VMS students to explore their inner ‘force,’” said Jorden Cohen, VMS1.
In the meantime Kinzer and Hagan, who are now practicing physicians in exotic places like Guam and St. Louis, say it is high time the details of the legend be known. For the full context of our exclusive interview with the pranksters, go to GetTheNac.