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Vanderbilt University


Vanderbilt University is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational university located in Nashville, Tennessee. It was chartered in 1872 as the Central University of Methodist Episcopal Church and was founded and renamed in 1873. The university opened in 1875 through a gift from Cornelius Vanderbilt, after whom it was named, and operated under the auspices of the Methodist Church until 1914.

Shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, the university's founder, donated $1 million for the university in 1873. Historians note that Vanderbilt had never been to the South. He made the donation hoping that it would help the healing process following the ravages wrought by the Civil War.

Today, Vanderbilt has over 11,000 students in ten schools. Among its affiliates are a number of research facilities as well as the world-renowned Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), the only Level I Trauma Center in Middle Tennessee.

General Information

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University stands on 330 acres of land.

As of 2006, the private university had a total endowment of US$2.911 billion. Its total student population stood at 11,481, including 6,402 undergraduates and 5,079 postgraduates. The university has a faculty of 2,861.

The university's current chancellor is Gordon Gee. Its official colors are black and gold while its nickname is Commodores. In athletics, Vanderbilt University has 16 varsity teams. Their affiliations are AAU (Academic) and SEC (Athletic).


Even before the American Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South were exploring the possibility of constructing a regional university where church ministers could be trained. With Nashville bishop Holland McTyeire at the forefront, church leaders cast their votes supporting the creation of a Central University in Nashville in 1872. However, they did not have enough funds to finance the opening of the college.

In 1873, Bishop McTyeire visited New York and met Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was married to the cousin of McTyeire's wife. Then the richest man in the country, Vanderbilt was already at an advanced age and was considering a number of philanthropic endeavors. Initially, he planned to create a university on Staten Island, New York in honor of his mother. AT McTyeire's urging however, Vanderbilt agreed to endow Central University with a $500,000 donation. This amount was later increased to $1 million. It was Vanderbilt's sole philanthropy.

Vanderbilt had no intentions of having the university after him, but the school's trustees agreed to rechristen the school as Vanderbilt University. In the fall of 1875, the first batch of some 200 students would enroll at the university. In 1877, Vanderbilt passed away without ever having visited the school that carried his name.

Bishop McTyeire became the university's chairman of the Board of Trust for life, as stipulated in Vanderbilt's endowment. He appointed Landon Garland as chancellor. It would be Garland who would shape the university's structure and hire its faculty, including several renowned scholars in their respective fields. Unfortunately, many of them would eventually leave following disagreements with Bishop McTyeire.

For over 40 years, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South controlled the Board of Trust and the university itself and, during that time, many disputes arose between the Church and the university administration over the school's future, especially about how the members of the Board of Trust were chosen. These disputes ended in litigation in 1912 which eventually led to the severance of all ties between the Methodist conference and Vanderbilt University in June 1914.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Vanderbilt gained great prestige, especially in intellectual circles, for hosting two groups of scholars who exerted a strong influence on American thought and letters: the Fugitives and the Agrarians.

At that time, Vanderbilt's Medical School, led by the likes of Ernest William Goodpasture, also gained prominence for inventing methods for cultivating viruses in chicken eggs that would eventually lead to the production of vaccines against a wide range of diseases, including small pox, chicken pox, typhus, yellow fever, Rocky mountain spotted fever and other diseases.

During the latter part of the 1950s, Vanderbilt University became a hotbed of the Civil Rights movement as it expelled James Lawson, one of the movement's leaders. Lawson would be re-hired as a Distinguished University Professor in 2005 and was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus.

In 1966, the school would once again gain national attention when it recruited basketball star Perry Wallace, who became the Southeastern Conference's first African American athlete. Despite considerable opposition from segregationists, Wallace suited up for Vanderbilt University from 1967-70. His jersey was retired in 2004 following several failed attempts and thanks largely to a strong student-led drive.

In 2002, Vanderbilt University was once again embroiled in a controversy involving race and civil rights issues. This time, the controversy involved the university's decision to re-name the Confederate Memorial Hall simply to Memorial Hall and the resulting lawsuit filed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which argued that it had helped finance the construction of the building in 1933 through a $50,000 contribution. The lawsuit was dismissed by the Davidson County Chancery Court in 2003 but, in May 2005, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the school had to pay damages to the United Daughters of the Confederacy based on the current value of their 1933 contribution if the the university removed or altered the inscription "Confederate Memorial Hall" from the building. In July 2005,the university announced that it would not remove the inscription despite the fact that it had officially renamed the building and that all university offices and publications had referred to it solely as "Memorial Hall."

Programs and Facilities

Vanderbilt University awards baccalaureate degrees through its college of arts and sciences, school of engineering, and school of music. Master's, doctoral, and professional degree programs are offered through these and other schools, such as Vanderbilt's graduate school, divinity school, and schools of law, management, medicine, and nursing. Research institutes include centers for the study of education and human development, public policy, and the humanities.

Major facilities at Vanderbilt include the Dyer Observatory for astronomical research, the Vanderbilt Medical Center, the Free Electron Laser Center, the Kennedy Center for Research on Education and Human Development, and the Robert Penn Warren Center of Humanities.





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