Prior to the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church wished to create a regional university for the training of ministers; they decided to name it Central University and place it in Nashville. However, funds were scarce, and the opening was delayed. In 1873, Nashville’s Bishop Holland McTyeire visited his friend “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt in New York and convinced him to endow the planned school in Nashville rather than opening one on Staten Island; Vanderbilt committed $1 million, and the school was named in his honor and dedicated to his wish that it “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all geographical sections of our common country.” Vanderbilt was created as a place for leadership of consensus building.
Vanderbilt remained largely a Southern school for its first hundred years, but the ensuing times have seen it rise to a position of national prominence, with a strong commitment to teaching and research. The University consists of ten schools: Arts and Sciences, Blair School of Music, Engineering, Peabody College of Education and Human Development (absorbed in 1979), Graduate, Divinity, Law, Medicine (obviously the most important), Nursing, and the Owen School of Management. Notably, Vandy has had only eight chancellors in its 135 years, with the naming of Nicholas S. Zeppos as our newest chancellor on March 3, 2008.
Famous Commodore alumni include Robert Penn Warren, Pulitzer Prize winner and US Poet Laureate; Bettie Page, the first pin-up model; James Lawson, civil rights pioneer; Lamar Alexander, US Senator and former governor of TN; Fred Thompson, a former US Senator now on Law and Order; Buster Olney and Skip Bayless, talking heads for ESPN; Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize; and Grantland Rice, considered by many the finest sportswriter ever. Before you ask, Al Gore did attend the Divinity School for a while, but left to pursue a career in politics, which worked out all right for him. In the athletic realm, the ’Dores have produced few superstars, but sports fans might recognize the names Will Perdue, Joey Cora, Shelton Quarles, and Jay Cutler. We are particularly proud of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player in the SEC, who has gone on to an outstanding career in law. (If you’re really interested in the history of the University, Nashville historian Bill Carey wrote an excellent account, Chancellors, Commodores, and Coeds, always available at the main bookstore.)
The School of Medicine was incorporated a year after the founding of the University, with its first degrees conferred in 1875. Originally downtown, the school and hospital moved to the current location in 1925. The Medical Center now boasts a hospital of 906 beds, 48,972 yearly admissions, and over 100,000 yearly adult and pediatric ER visits. Vanderbilt University Hospital (VUH) has the only Level 1 trauma and burn centers in the region, the only air emergency transport in the area, and the only comprehensive cancer center of its kind in the State. Eleven of Vanderbilt’s adult medical specialties rank among the nation’s top 50 by U.S. News. The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, the most comprehensive children’s hospital in the state, has been honored every year as one of the top facilities for children in the country, with ten of its specialties ranked in the nation’s top 50 - it also has some delicious food like Subway, Ben and Jerry’s, and Taco Bell. Be sure to check out the Ben and Jerry’s for free scoop day in the spring! Famous faculty at the School of Medicine have included two Nobel prize winners, Earl Sutherland Jr. (cyclic AMP) and Stanley Cohen (epidermal growth factor); Mildred Stahlman (founder of the country’s first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), Senate majority leader Bill Frist (who performed the first successful heart-and-lung transplant in the Southeast), and a slew of others who you can learn more about in lunch lectures.