Home » Part I The University and Its Governance » Chapter 1: About Vanderbilt University

Chapter 1: About Vanderbilt University

Section A
History

Vanderbilt University is an independent, privately-supported University founded in 1873 through a gift from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Born of modest means and not formally educated, the Commodore, a nickname Vanderbilt received in his youth, built a fortune from steamboat lines and railroads. The endowment of the University was his only major philanthropy, and his hope was that Vanderbilt would “contribute to strengthening the ties that should exist between all geographical sections of our common country.”

Bishop Holland N. McTyeire, whose wife was a cousin of Vanderbilt’s second wife, Frank Armstrong Crawford, was leading a movement within the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to establish “an institution of learning of the highest order.” In 1872, a charter was issued to petitioners representing nine Methodist conferences located in the mid-South for “Central University” in Nashville. However, their efforts failed for lack of financial resources in a region so recently ruined by the Civil War. In early 1873, Bishop McTyeire traveled to New York to seek medical care, and the Vanderbilts offered their hospitality for his convalescence. Prior to the trip, the Bishop had reportedly discussed the possibility of gaining financial support from the Commodore in letters to his wife, Frank Armstrong Crawford. She is credited for laying the groundwork for the gift. During his stay in New York, Bishop McTyeire was able to gain the admiration and financial support of the Commodore in the amount of one half million dollars to found the University. Himself unschooled, Vanderbilt once said, “Though I never had any education, no man has ever felt the lack more than I have, and no man appreciates the value of it more than I do and believes more than I do what it will do in the future.” Soon after the University opened, Vanderbilt sent another half million dollars for its endowment.

Commodore Vanderbilt, who never visited Nashville himself, entrusted Bishop McTyeire to choose the site for the campus and administer the institution. At that time, Nashville had a population of 40,000, and the campus was part cornfield with a few residences scattered on the site. The Bishop himself planted young trees over the original seventy-five acre campus and supervised the planning and construction of the buildings. Vanderbilt University opened for classes in October of 1875 with 307 students enrolled. Since then, the University has grown to 333 acres with more than 12,000 students, and it has been designated a national arboretum-a legacy of Bishop McTyeire’s early efforts.

Section B
Colleges and Schools

Vanderbilt University comprises ten schools offering undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering, and music and a full range of graduate and professional degrees. The University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Association of American Universities. The College of Arts and Science, founded in 1875 as the Department of Philosophy, Science, and Literature, offers the Bachelor of Arts.

The Blair School of Music, once an independent music school that merged with the University in 1981, offers the Bachelor of Music.

The Divinity School was established in 1875 as the Biblical Department and operated under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, from its opening until May 1914. Since that date, it has carried on as an ecumenical theological school under the direction of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, which, in 1915 officially established it as The Divinity School with its own dean and faculty. The Divinity School offers the Master of Theological Studies and the Master of Divinity.

The School of Engineering, established as a full department in 1886, offers the Bachelor of Engineering, the Bachelor of Science, and the Master of Engineering.

The Graduate School, an early priority of the University which offered doctoral programs within the first ten years of its founding, offers the Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, the Master of Liberal Arts and Science, the Master of Science, and the Doctor of Philosophy.

The Law School, founded as one of the original departments of the University, offers the Doctor of Jurisprudence and the Master of Laws.

The Department of Medicine (now School of Medicine) conferred its first diplomas in 1875 as part of an agreement with the University of Nashville Medical Department. Vanderbilt split ties with the University of Nashville in 1895, and finally moved to the main campus in 1925. The School of Medicine offers the Doctor of Medicine, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Clinical Investigation, Master of Laboratory Investigation, Master of Education of the Deaf, Master of Science of Medical Physics, Master of Health Professions Education, Master of Science (Speech Language Pathology), Master of Science in Applied Clinical Informatics, Doctor of Audiology, and Doctor of Medical Physics.

The School of Nursing, has a history dating back to 1909, and began offering the Master of Science in Nursing in 1955. The School offers the Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice.

The Owen Graduate School of Management was established in 1969. The Owen School offers the Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Finance, Master of Accountancy, and Master of Management in Health Care.

Peabody College traces its roots to Davidson Academy, organized in 1785, eleven years before the founding of the state of Tennessee. It operated as an independent professional school of education from 1875 until its merger with Vanderbilt in 1979. The Peabody College of Education and Human Development offers the Bachelor of Science, the Master of Education, the Master of Public Policy, and the Doctor of Education.

Section C
Administration

Vanderbilt University is governed by a Board of Trust which appoints the Chancellor as the Chief Officer. The University’s other administrative officers serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor and include the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Vice Chancellor for Investments and Chief Investment Officer, the Vice Chancellor for Administration, the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, the Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, the Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs, the Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Relations, the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology, and the Vice Chancellor, General Counsel and Secretary. Each of the ten schools of the University is led by a dean, nine of whom report to the Provost and the Dean of the School of Medicine who reports to the Chancellor.

Section D
Academic Affiliation between Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center became separate non-profit entities in 2016. They operate under an Academic Affiliation Agreement to support one another and fulfill their related missions. As part of this agreement, based on their roles and appointments, faculty may be employed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. These faculty continue to have their faculty appointments with Vanderbilt University and are covered by the Vanderbilt University Faculty Manual. Such faculty render services to, and are responsible to, both Vanderbilt University and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.