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Zeppos receives new appointments as University Distinguished Professor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus Chair
Vanderbilt University is recognizing Chancellor Emeritus Nicholas S. Zeppos’ visionary leadership and legacy by naming one of its newest residential colleges in his honor. The Nicholas S. Zeppos College—slated to open in 2020—is under construction at the corner of West End Avenue and 25th Avenue South.
“Nick’s unwavering commitment to Vanderbilt has been key to the university’s elevation as one of America’s leading research and educational institutions,” said Board of Trust Chairman Bruce R. Evans. “I can think of no more fitting way to honor Nick’s dedication to educating the whole student, and to bringing our entire community closer together, than through our residential colleges. His name will be part of the Vanderbilt experience for many decades to come.”
Evans unveiled the university’s plans during a celebratory dinner for Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor on Nov. 8. Zeppos, who first came to the university as a faculty member in 1987, served as chancellor from March 1, 2008, through August 15 of this year.
“I feel fortunate and quite privileged to have served for these timeless and cherished annals, to have meaning and purpose in my life every day for the past 32 years, especially these past 12,” Zeppos said. “I learned long ago that meaning and purpose are nonsense in evolution, but they are the water and oxygen of a full life. Vanderbilt has made my life full.”
Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente announced a new faculty appointment for Zeppos, who will now be University Distinguished Professor of Law and Political Science.
“In addition to being our chancellor emeritus, Nick is an extraordinary legal scholar and teacher. His heart has been, and will always be, with students and faculty,” Wente said. “Few in number on our campus, University Distinguished Professors are selected for their record of accomplishment, their promise for continued contributions and their ability to bring together diverse perspectives in research and teaching. As our leading champion of trans-institutional collaboration, Nick embodies this goal.”
At Vanderbilt, the title University Distinguished Professor is granted to exceptional scholars and teachers whose work extends beyond traditional academic fields and disciplinary lines.
“During the time Chancellor Emeritus Zeppos served full-time on our faculty, he was one of our most cited faculty members and one of our leading teachers, receiving the Law School’s prestigious Hall-Hartman Professor Award six times,” said Chris Guthrie, dean and the John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law at the Law School. “Our faculty and students will benefit enormously from his teaching and scholarship. We are thrilled to have him back as a faculty colleague.”
University Distinguished Professors hold full-status appointments in at least two schools. The Political Science faculty voted unanimously to create a new faculty appointment in their department for Zeppos in addition to his appointment in the Law School.
“As chancellor and provost, Nick was always committed to building excellence in the faculty,” said John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of political science. “We are now excited that he will build excellence through his teaching and research in Political Science. We are truly fortunate to have Nick as part of the Arts and Science family.”
Wente also announced that Zeppos will hold the newly created Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus Chair. “Nick was our first and most determined proponent for the creation of endowed faculty chairs, which have enabled us to recruit and retain many more world-class teachers and scholars,” Wente said. “I am delighted that it is now Nick’s well-deserved turn for this honor, the highest that a university can bestow.”
Under Zeppos’ leadership, the number of endowed chairs at Vanderbilt more than doubled from 200 to 434.
“Vanderbilt in my time has grown into a vibrant, curious, trans-institutional community of brilliant scholars,” Zeppos said. “We are second to none in the breakthroughs we make and the boundaries we seek to break. All our work is in service and in deep devotion to teaching, learning and discovery, and the beneficent ends it produces across our world.”
Other major initiatives launched under Zeppos include Opportunity Vanderbilt, a pioneering financial aid program that attracts the nation’s most qualified students by replacing loans with scholarships; FutureVU, the university’s land use planning process, which takes a holistic approach to the development of the campus footprint; and the historic transition of the university and Vanderbilt University Medical Center into two separate legal and financial entities, a prescient restructuring that has positioned both institutions for long-term success.
Zeppos joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1987 as an assistant professor of law, and then spent the next 21 years serving the university in various roles, including professor, associate dean of the Law School, associate provost for academic affairs, vice chancellor and provost. In 2007, he began serving as interim chancellor before becoming chancellor. Read more about Zeppos and his career.