September 2, 2010

Zeppos outlines initiative to increase endowed chairs

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Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, left, presents John Oates, M.D., with the Sutherland Prize at last week’s Fall Faculty Assembly. (photo by Steve Green)

Zeppos outlines initiative to increase endowed chairs

Vanderbilt will invest substantial resources over the next few years to its faculty, announced Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos at last week's Fall Faculty Assembly.

This will include $15 million per year toward attracting new faculty and the creation of 60 new endowed faculty chairs.

“No one knows better than you the importance of a university's ability to award endowed faculty chairs,” Zeppos told faculty gathered in the Student Life Center. “They are the gold standard for acknowledging faculty achievement and distinction and are essential to building a world-class faculty.”

The new endowed chairs will be added over the next two years, bringing the total number of endowed chairs at Vanderbilt to 267, Zeppos announced.

A committee of leading faculty will help recruit new faculty. Zeppos said that Vanderbilt's robust financial performance during the economic turndown had resulted in an opportunity to aggressively pursue scholarly talent.

“We must be cautious about our own vulnerabilities, but we should not shrink from the fact that, as other universities struggle, we will be … presented with rare faculty hiring opportunities across all disciplines,” Zeppos said.

“We will be successful only if, as in the past, you are the ones who help us identify, recruit and evaluate these exceptional possibilities.”

Vanderbilt is achieving “exceptional” financial results given the economy, Zeppos said.

Research funding increased 17 percent to $613 million and more than $117 million in philanthropic gifts were received in the financial year that ended in June.

Zeppos said that in addition to the faculty, spending priorities include maintenance of campus buildings, building up “rainy day” funds and capital building projects including Kissam Quadrangle, two new residential colleges, a new Life Sciences and Engineering Building and an addition to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Concerns include the national debt, he said.

“Almost 82 percent of our research funding comes from the federal budget,” Zeppos said.

“There is no way to look at that number without at least a small shudder, knowing that the current trajectory of American debt is not sustainable. Whatever solutions are hammered out, they are sure to affect research funding.”

Zeppos said that the administration was “aggressively pursuing ways to assure our continued research prominence.”
Several awards were presented at the meeting.

 John Oates, M.D., Thomas A. Frist Sr. Professor of Medicine and professor of Pharmacology, was named the winner of the Sutherland Prize for achievement in research.

• Virginia Scott, professor of French, won the Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to Vanderbilt.”

Among those presented Chancellors' Awards for Research were:

Björn Knollman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, for his 2009 paper in Nature Medicine entitled, “Flecanide prevents catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia in mice and humans.” Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia is a cardiac arrhythmia that can lead to sudden death.

Charles Sanders, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, for his paper, published in Science in 2009, “Solution nuclear magnetic resonance structure of membrane-integral diacylglycerol kinase.”