Home » Biography of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos
Biography of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos
Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt University’s eighth chancellor on March 1, 2008.
A distinguished legal scholar, teacher and executive, Zeppos served from 2002 – 2008 as Vanderbilt’s chief academic officer, overseeing the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs as well as research efforts in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, business, law and divinity. As provost and vice chancellor, he chaired Vanderbilt’s budgeting and capital planning council and led all fundraising and alumni relations efforts across the institution, in addition to overseeing the dean of students and dean of admissions.
Zeppos has led a number of important initiatives at Vanderbilt, including the planning processes for The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, a landmark transformation of the first-year experience, and College Halls at Kissam, the next phase of the university’s unique living-learning residential college system. Other key advancements include the Strategic Academic Planning Group; innovative efforts in undergraduate admissions and financial aid; and the development of new programs in Jewish studies, law and economics and genetics.
In a bold move to strengthen Vanderbilt’s commitment to admitting undergraduates on the basis of accomplishment and achievement, rather than their ability to pay, in 2009, Zeppos created an expanded financial aid program. By replacing undergraduate need-based loans with grant and scholarship assistance, this transformative initiative opened the university’s doors wider to highly talented and qualified students of all economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds. The expanded aid program is funded by a combination of strategic budget allocations, the university’s Shape the Future fundraising campaign, which under Zeppos’ leadership raised over $1.9 billion, and the current Opportunity Vanderbilt campaign.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Zeppos is a 1979 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he served as editor in chief of the Wisconsin Law Review and was selected the outstanding graduate of his class. Before that, he was a 1976 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he studied history.
From 1982 to 1987, Zeppos practiced law in Washington, D.C., at the United States Department of Justice and at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he specialized in appellate litigation involving complex regulatory, statutory and constitutional matters. He has written widely on legislation, administrative law and professional responsibility and is a nationally recognized scholar in these fields. He served as chair for the scholars committee that advised the Senate and the American Bar Association on the confirmation of Justice Stephen Breyer to the U.S. Supreme Court, and as chair of the Rules Advisory Committee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He has also served as a consultant to government agencies, major corporations and trade associations on complex litigation, policy design and strategy.
Zeppos joined the Vanderbilt community in 1987 as an assistant professor in the Law School, where he has been recognized with five teaching awards. He subsequently served as an associate dean and then as associate provost before being named provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs in 2002. He served as interim chancellor of the university from Aug. 1, 2007, until March 1, 2008, when he was appointed chancellor.
Chancellor Zeppos currently serves on the boards of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Public Education Foundation. He also serves on the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board and the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute Board.