August 30, 2012

Faculty honored for service, excellence at Fall Assembly


Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos leads the Fall Faculty Assembly on Aug. 23.

Vanderbilt has succeeded in the face of tough economic challenges thanks to its commitment to excellence, diversity, acceptance and creativity, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos told a standing-room-only crowd at the Student Life Center during the Fall Faculty Assembly Aug. 23.

Zeppos, who was among faculty members recognized for 25 years of service to the university, said he is proud that Vanderbilt has become “the embodiment of diversity and meritocracy.” Those students accepted into the Vanderbilt community are considered “to be on a journey. … We must never limit them.”

Vanderbilt, he said, “is a place with great academics that believes in the American dream.”

Among the University’s recent accomplishments he cited were increases in student body diversity, an all-time high in undergraduate applications, a large turnout of Ph.D.s, a growing number of minority Ph.D.s, an increase in faculty national recognition and top performance in research funds acquisition.

Zeppos said he was especially pleased that the University has been able to maintain its excellence while making it possible for talented students of all economic means to receive a Vanderbilt education. This, he credited, to the success of Opportunity Vanderbilt, which eliminated loans from the financial packages the University offers students with need.

He noted that several peer institutions have backed off similar financial aid policies, while Vanderbilt has not.

“Times got tough and they withdrew,” he said. “But we at Vanderbilt are dedicated to keeping the doors open for that student who is working very hard, and, for them, Vanderbilt is a dream. Vanderbilt is a place of acceptance. We want to provide these worthy students opportunities.”

Early in the program Provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty and Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, surprised Zeppos by recognizing his 25 years at Vanderbilt.

“We all love Vanderbilt, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who loves Vanderbilt more than Nick Zeppos,” Balser said.

For Zeppos, the milestone is an emotional one.

“I look out over this crowd and I see people who we raised our children together. We ate meals together while our children threw food at us. I see old friends and new faces and I consider it a privilege to call each of you my friends.”

More than 35 faculty members were presented with their 25-year chairs. In addition, Zeppos awarded five Chancellor’s Research Awards, as well as the Thomas Jefferson Award and the prestigious Earl Sutherland Award, Vanderbilt’s top faculty honor.

“This has been the toughest and best year we’ve ever had. What I have to say today is a very good report, and I give you all the credit,” he said.

He closed by describing a new program on the horizon, a “big ideas” grant program for Vanderbilt faculty, to inspire them to creative heights. Grants could be up to $5,000 each.

“We’re on the path to some really big discoveries. Having a broadly collaborative process will define who this university can be.”

Sal March, Faculty Senate Chair, opened the assembly, and David Furbish, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences presented the talk, “The Statistical Physics of Earth’s Sediment: An Imagined Conversation with Hans Albert Einstein.”

To see all the award winners, go to