September 4, 2009

Zeppos praises VU community for resilience, looks forward

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Hal Moses, M.D., director emeritus of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, was presented with the Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos at Tuesday’s Fall Faculty Assembly. (photo by Steve Green)

Zeppos praises VU community for resilience, looks forward

It is time for Vanderbilt to cautiously move forward after the economy inspired it to reevaluate its priorities, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos told the Fall Faculty Assembly.

“Our community weathered this storm mostly intact,” Zeppos said Sept. 1 at the Student Life Center. “While other schools were forced into radical actions to balance their budgets and build up cash, Vanderbilt’s various departments … looked for prudent ways to tighten belts, always seeking to protect the university and tending to those in our community most in need.

“Vanderbilt strengthened its intellectual community as other universities shrunk. We created jobs when other universities had to eliminate them. We did this at the same time we reassured our students they would graduate from Vanderbilt without any debt.

Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos at Tuesday's Fall Faculty Assembly. (photo by Steve Green)

Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos at Tuesday's Fall Faculty Assembly. (photo by Steve Green)

“You have made this university far stronger, resilient and ready, come what may.”

The chancellor publicly briefs the faculty twice a year. Along with Cynthia B. Pascal, chair of the Faculty Senate, he recognized faculty with 25 years of service, announced the winners of the Chancellor’s Awards for Research and also the winners of the Thomas Jefferson Award for service and the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research.

Noting that Vanderbilt’s endowment had declined 16 percent while others lost up to 30 percent during the economic crisis, Zeppos thanked faculty and staff for budgetary sacrifices and Vice Chancellor for Investments Matthew Wright and his team for savvy handling of Vanderbilt’s finances.

“We are not as endowment dependent as some of our peer schools,” Zeppos said.

Vanderbilt’s other revenue streams include government grants and contracts, alumni and other giving, tuition and fees, the medical center and a lucrative new Southeastern Conference contract with ESPN, he pointed out.

The chancellor said that Vanderbilt would continue to be competitive in bringing the best new faculty to campus, make a substantial investment in graduate education and consider new construction.

But he said caution was still necessary as the nation navigated an unsure economy.

“No part of the university can borrow excessively on the belief that it will make money down the road without putting the entire university in jeopardy,” Zeppos said.

The chancellor said his senior management team has coalesced, citing in particular the appointments of Brett Sweet as vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer, Jeff Balser as vice chancellor for health affairs and Susie Stalcup as vice chancellor for development and alumni relations.

“In every decision we make, we stand together,” he said. “We are one university, financially and intellectually – not just rhetorically. That is where our strengths and competitive advantage are found.”

The program began with a presentation by Larry Churchill, Anne Geddes Stahlman Professor of Medical Ethics, on “Being Good and Getting Better: Connections between Moral Virtues and Healing.”

The Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research was given to Harold L. Moses, director emeritus of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

David Weintraub, professor of astronomy and director of Science, Humanities and Technology, was named the winner of The Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service in the councils and government of the university.

Eight faculty members were recognized with Chancellor’s Awards for Research, which recognizes excellence in research, scholarship or creative expression. The honorees:
• Yanqin Fan, professor of economics
• Irina Kaverina, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology
• James G. Patton, professor of biological sciences
• Research team: Gordan D. Logan, Centennial Professor of Psychology; Thomas J. Palmeri, sssociate professor of psychology; Jeffrey D. Schall, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Neuroscience
• Eric Patrick Skaar, assistant professor of microbiology & immunology.