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Jeff Carr, major force at Vanderbilt and in the community for three decades, dies

Apr. 12, 2016, 3:53 PM

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Jeff Carr, vice chancellor for university relations, general counsel and secretary, emeritus, who died April 10.

Jeff Carr, whose devotion to Vanderbilt University and commitment to its integrity led to his serving as one of its most senior officers and in multiple leadership roles for more than three decades, died April 10 at his Dickson County home. He was 75.

Carr first came to Nashville in 1963 to attend Vanderbilt Law School. He stayed on to assume three major positions during his time at Vanderbilt— vice chancellor for university relations, general counsel and secretary of the university. He was awarded emeritus status in each of those positions upon his retirement in 2000. He also headed a diverse group of divisions and offices, including University Relations, General Counsel, Vanderbilt Security, News and Public Affairs, Traffic and Parking, Television News Archives, Vanderbilt Press and Vanderbilt University Real Estate.

“Jeff was a longtime major force at Vanderbilt. He left a legacy of care for the institution, and played a vital role in envisioning and assembling the campus that we know today. Because of the work of Jeff and others like him, Vanderbilt is one of very few universities in the nation – perhaps the only one – where 10 colleges and schools reside on the same campus,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said.

Chancellor Emeritus Joe B. Wyatt remembered Carr as a trusted adviser. “He was not only general counsel and counsellor to me, my administrative team and the Board of Trust, but everybody relied on Jeff for his low-key and precise advice when important decisions needed to be made. He never pretended to know something. He either spoke or went off and prepared himself. He never faked it.”

Born in the Bronx, New York, Carr grew up in Fairhope, Alabama, and earned his undergraduate degree from UT-Chattanooga (then the University of Chattanooga), where he majored in mathematics. He graduated in the top 10th of his class. Other honors included Blue Key Honor Society and Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society. He served as editor of the college yearbook, the Moccasin.

In 1966, Carr earned a J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School, where he served as moot court justice and was inducted into the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.

Vice Chancellor Emeritus and Counselor to the Chancellor John Beasley recalled that one of his duties as an associate dean of the law was to oversee its admissions in the 1960s, “I admitted Jeff to the law school and I knew he was going to be a great lawyer, and he was. It just turned out he was a great lawyer for Vanderbilt.”

Beasley added, “Jeff was one of those people who quietly got things done, nearly always behind the scenes. He was a dedicated guardian of the university’s reputation.”

After graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, Carr went to work on campus as associate director of development, and was named university legal officer in 1969. He remained in that position until May 1976.

Chancellor Alexander Heard then named Carr vice chancellor for governmental relations and general counsel. Carr assumed the additional title of secretary of the university in 1979, when his title was changed to vice chancellor for university relations.

As the university’s legal counsel, Carr became an ardent supporter for the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, which was established by Vanderbilt Libraries (then Joint University Libraries) in 1968 to record, preserve and provide access to the news broadcasts of the then-three major networks. Through the years, the archive faced legal battles with television networks over copyright issues. During the 1990s, Carr assumed responsibility for the archive within the Office of Public Affairs. It was returned to the library in 2002.

Carr began or partnered with Wyatt on many initiatives to broaden Vanderbilt’s engagement with the community, including Nashville Forum, a monthly luncheon meeting to which various members of the community were invited to hear a Vanderbilt faculty member or other prominent speaker; Day on Campus, which brought sixth graders to campus from Metro Nashville Public Schools; and Retirement Learning, now named the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt. He also was the principal organizer of a regional planning summit in 1999 that led to establishment of a regional planning initiative. That eventually became Cumberland Region Tomorrow, a citizen-based organization dedicated to planning for the future livability and economic vitality of the 10-county region including and surrounding Nashville.

He partnered with merchants and property owners in the 1990s to upgrade and beautify Hillsboro Village. He also was instrumental in the university’s purchase of the property on West End Avenue between 25th Avenue and Natchez Trace, which was developed into the 2525 retail and office building and a Marriott Hotel.

During much of his adult life, Carr and his family lived on a farm in Dickson County near Burns, Tennessee, about 30 miles west of Nashville.

At one point Carr owned seven different farms in Davidson and Hickman counties, prompting the late Board of Trust Chairman David K. “Pat” Wilson to dub him “Squire Carr.”

Wyatt said, “If you needed any information in the whole region, he was the go-to person – from Nashville to Hickman County and beyond.”

In addition to managing his farms, Carr was an active local citizen, having served on the Dickson County Quarterly Court and as a member of the Dickson County Water Authority.

He was also a member of the American Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association and the Nashville Bar Association. Carr was a former member of the executive board of the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

He had held membership in the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and served as an executive committee member of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities.

Carr was a member of Leadership Nashville and was a former member of the board of directors of Tennessee Special Olympics. He served the Nashville Chamber of Commerce as general counsel, a member of the Executive Committee, the Education Committee and the Board of Governors.

Carr’s favorite hobby was photography. He had worked at a photography shop in New Hampshire during summers while in high school and college.

Carr served as a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve, assigned to the Judge Advocate General office.

Carr is survived by his wife, Anne Oglesby Carr, daughter Ellen Carr and grandson Wick Carr Krug, daughter Anna Carr Jones, son-in-law Paul Jones and grandson Mikey Carr Jones.

A memorial service will be held Friday, April 15, at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with visitation directly following in the parlor. In lieu of flowers, Carr’s family has requested donations to Vanderbilt University or the charity of your choice.

 

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