The Vanderbilt Alumni Association has named H. Rodes Hart, BA’54, the recipient of the 2018 Vanderbilt University Distinguished Alumnus Award. The honor is the highest bestowed upon a member of the university’s alumni community.
An extraordinary leader and philanthropist, Hart has helped position the university’s impact on society through education and has contributed to Vanderbilt’s ascendance among the nation’s elite universities.
“For more than 30 years, Rodes Hart’s vision and philanthropy have propelled the university forward, dramatically impacting our ability to fulfill our mission of teaching, research and service,” says Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “We are deeply grateful for his leadership and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition.”
“You simply cannot tell the story of Vanderbilt’s rise to national prominence without Rodes Hart,” says Dan Lovinger, BA’87, president of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association. “He has been the epitome of a loyal Commodore for so many years, and it is a privilege to celebrate him with this honor.”
Hart’s strong leadership helped steer the university through two historic transitions. As a member of the former George Peabody College for Teachers Board of Trust from 1967 to 1979, he played an integral role in the successful merger of Vanderbilt University and Peabody College. He then served until 2011 on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, for which he sat on its Audit, Budget, Investment, Public and Government Relations, Medical Center Board, Buildings and Grounds, and executive committees.
From 2008 to 2011, he was chair of the highly successful Shape the Future Campaign, which raised a record $1.94 billion to further Vanderbilt’s missions of education, discovery and patient care.
Hart’s leadership is matched by his tremendous generosity. He has been a driving force behind Peabody’s service to society through education and human development. With a deep belief in the importance of a world-class faculty, he and his wife, Patricia Hart, BA’57, have endowed numerous faculty chairs, positioning Vanderbilt to attract and retain the best possible talent. They also have created scholarships that have helped the university recruit the most talented and diverse students. Peabody’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier colleges for preparing teachers and leaders is, in many ways, due to the Harts’ generosity and partnership.
The Harts are also stalwarts in the Nashville community. Their passion for the arts and numerous nonprofit organizations in Nashville is visible throughout the city and has contributed significantly to its enhanced national reputation.
Hart was CEO of Franklin Industries for 51 years before selling the company in 2006. He is now principal of HSD Holdings LLC. The Harts live in Brentwood, Tennessee, and have three children: Rodes Jr., BA’83; Kevin and Patti. They also have 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.