Vanderbilt emeritus trustee Eugene Vaughan dies

Eugene H. Vaughan (submitted photo)
Eugene H. Vaughan (submitted photo)

Eugene H. Vaughan, BA’55, a Vanderbilt University Board of Trust emeritus trustee and noted business and civic leader, died Dec. 9 in Houston. He was 90.

Vaughan was born and raised in Brownsville, Tennessee, and enrolled at Vanderbilt on a full Naval ROTC scholarship in 1951. While a student, he ran the one- and two-mile events on the varsity track team; was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity; founded and served as the inaugural president of Interhall, Vanderbilt students’ self-governing dormitory system; and was inducted into the Blue Pencil Society for his exceptional writing skills.

He joined the staff of The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper and took on the challenging duties of sports editor as a rising junior, which he wrote about in a 2018 alumni newsletter column. “The responsibilities of sports editor loomed large, writing three columns a week and organizing coverage of all sports, both varsity and intramural,” he said. “The IM League was complex and—in a way, at that time—more talent-laden than the varsity teams.”

Vaughan wrote his final Hustler column in May 1955. One of the highlights of his time as sports editor, he said, was his friendship with Fred Russell, a nationally prominent sports reporter who worked for the Nashville Banner newspaper. Russell offered Vaughan a job after graduation, but the Navy had other plans.

After three years of active duty as an officer on a Naval destroyer in the Atlantic and Pacific, Vaughan joined the IBM Corporation as part of a five-person team converting all seven Air Force Commands to the new IBM 305 RAMAC commercial computer. Wanting to further his business acumen, he attended Harvard Business School on the J. Spencer Love Fellowship. He participated in a summer internship at Putnam Management Company in Boston, where he fell in love with investment research and money management and joined full time upon his graduation from Harvard in 1961.

In 1970, he founded Vaughan Nelson Investment Management in Houston with partners Dick Nelson and Frank Scarborough. The firm rose to become a regional leader in institutional money management, managing the portfolios of numerous prominent pension plans, endowments, foundations and individuals. Vaughan also was active nationally on behalf of the investment management profession. He chaired the Financial Analyst Federation board as far back as 1973. He later joined the board of the Institute for Chartered Financial Analysts and played a critical role in the merger of the FAF and ICFA into what is today the CFA Institute, which counts some 190,000 members globally.

Vaughan stepped down as CEO of his investment management firm in 2000 to focus on his passions of community service and education. He immersed himself in the civic and business life of Houston, serving as the longtime director of the Greater Houston Partnership, as a member of its Executive Committee for 15 years and as founder of the partnership’s Education Committee.

He co-founded and served as founding chair of the Center for Houston’s Future, a regional think tank and primary generator of civic leaders and strategic planning in the Houston area. The Eugene H. Vaughan Award for Civic Leadership was established in 2004 and is presented annually to an individual whose lifetime of work has significantly shaped the future of the Houston region. Vaughan was founding chair of Presbyterian School Houston, and he served on and often chaired countless other boards in the city, such as Goodwill Industries, United Way, Houston Grand Opera, the Collaborative for Children and St. John’s School.

Vaughan became a trustee of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust in 1972 at age 39, the youngest person to do so at that point in the university’s history. During his long tenure on the Board of Trust, he served many terms as chairman of the Student Life Committee, which he considered to be the best job on the board. Additionally, he served terms on the Executive, Investment, Governance and Academic Affairs committees. In 2009 Vaughan was elected emeritus trustee, and he remained highly active as chairman of Vanderbilt’s Houston Alumni Chapter.

Vaughan was selected for the Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame in 2020. At the time, he recalled that serving as the Hustler’s sports editor helped him to develop the entrepreneurial and leadership skills he later used to build his regional investment management firm, chair a global association of investment professionals and improve the quality of life in Houston.

“Including the inspiration and career-shaping of my Hustler sports editorship, everything I cherish most in my life has come directly or indirectly from Vanderbilt,” said Vaughan, who noted that he met his wife, Susan, on Valentine’s Day in 1961 at the wedding of his Vanderbilt roommate. “The Hustler taught me that people build meaning into their lives by commitment. One must commit—and stand by their commitments.”

Vaughan is survived by his wife of 60 years, Susan Bolinger Westbrook Vaughan; daughter Margaret Corbin Vaughan Cox, BA’88, MBA’92, her husband, Jonathan, and their three children, Corbin Parc Robinson, Evelyn Alice Cox and Austin William Cox; and son Richard Bolinger Vaughan Sr., his wife, Ann, and their three children, Avery Nichols Vaughan, Richard “Bo” Bolinger Vaughan Jr. and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Meriwether Vaughan. He is also survived by a nephew, John Miller, and his wife, Robin; and a niece, Margaret Johnson Lutz, and her husband, Gary.

Friends are invited to a visitation with the family on Monday, Dec. 18, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. A memorial service will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 19, beginning at 2 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road, Houston.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in Vaughan’s honor be directed to the Center for Houston’s Future, 701 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, TX 77010; the Eugene H. Vaughan Family Scholarship for Entrepreneurial Excellence at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Gift and Donor Services, PMB 407727, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240; or St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77027.