James Sandlin, MDiv’69, Heart of the Arts

James_Sandlin_(by_Neil_Brake)James Sandlin, a former Sarratt Student Center director who worked tirelessly to expand cultural offerings on campus and to improve the quality of life in Middle Tennessee, died Sept. 19. Sandlin, 77, passed away at his home in Unionville, Tenn., after a brief illness.

Sandlin, who earned a bachelor of arts from Athens College, received his master of divinity from Vanderbilt and returned to campus as assistant dean of students for men. He played an integral role in the discussion and planning of Sarratt Student Center, where he became the director at its opening in 1974.

As director, Sandlin was responsible for the facility’s operations, including the production of numerous student and community events such as Rites of Spring. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt student media, student government, and creative arts outside of the classroom—including a cinema and a pottery studio—all flourished at Sarratt under Sandlin’s leadership.

Sandlin founded Vanderbilt’s performing arts series, which exposed the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities to renowned dance companies such as Trisha Brown, Alvin Ailey and Momix, and musicians like Dave Brubeck and Lyle Lovett.

He served on boards for Tennessee Special Olympics, Nashville Institute for the Arts, Sinking Creek Film Celebration (now Nashville Film Festival) and West End United Methodist Church. He was also active with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society, and Metro Arts Commission, among others. In 1994 he took a temporary leave of absence from Vanderbilt to serve as interim executive director of the Nashville Symphony during a time of transition there.

Sandlin became a special assistant in Vanderbilt’s Office of University Relations in 1997. During that time, Vanderbilt “loaned” him to the Nashville Civic Design Center as its first director.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Hundley Sandlin; four children, including Mary Sandlin, BA’99; a brother; 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

—Ann Marie Deer Owens