Joe B. Wyatt 1982-2000
When Alexander Heard retired in 1982, the board named Joe B. Wyatt to succeed him. As chancellor, Wyatt sought to place Vanderbilt in the very top tier of American universities.
Wyatt, a Texan, holds degrees in mathematics from Texas Christian University and the University of Texas. He was vice president for administration at Harvard University - and father of a Vanderbilt sophomore - when he was selected as Vanderbilt's sixth chancellor. As a computer scientist and executive, he brought to the university his concept that information technology is a strategic resource of accelerating global importance in education, research and patient care.
In addition to his influence in technology, Wyatt pushed the university community to unprecedented levels of involvement in volunteer community service. Alternative Spring Break was founded in 1987 by a handful of students with Wyatt's support. In 2007, over 350 students traveled to 35 countries to engage in community service during their spring break. With funding from the chancellor's discretionary fund, the non-profit Break Away: The Alternative Break Connection was founded in 1991 by Vanderbilt graduates to help colleges across the country start alternative spring breaks. In 2007, Break Away estimated that 350,000 students across the U.S. will participate in an alternative spring break experience.
The term "national university" took on expanded meaning under Wyatt. He led a national effort to improve elementary and secondary education in the nation's public and private schools, and made the Vanderbilt student body the most diverse in history, with minority enrollment in Vanderbilt's four undergraduate schools tripling during his tenure.
In 1989, for the first time, Vanderbilt's undergraduate programs were ranked among the top 25 national universities overall in the U.S. News & World Report survey, placing 24th. Vanderbilt continues to be ranked in the top 25, placing 18th in 2006.
During Wyatt's term as chancellor, the Medical Center expanded most dramatically, to account for more than 70 percent of the university's income and expenses and employing almost half of the full-time faculty, more than half of the part-time faculty and the majority of staff.
Under Wyatt, Vanderbilt acquired or built one-third of the campus - more than four million square feet of mostly new construction - and undertook one million additional square feet of renovations to existing facilities.
Wyatt spent much of the early '90s working with trustees and staff in The Campaign for Vanderbilt, which at the time was the most ambitious fund-raising effort in the institution's history. This campaign, which ended in 1995, raised $560 million. Under Wyatt's leadership, Vanderbilt's endowment grew to $1.8 billion and its operating budget grew to $1.3 billion. Sponsored research quadrupled, from $42 million to $214 million.
One of Wyatt's most significant accomplishments as chancellor was the improvement in the quality of Vanderbilt's faculty. The criteria for faculty appointment, promotion and tenure was strengthened twice during his administration, making it clear that excellence in scholarship, teaching and service are required for all members of the faculty. The number of endowed faculty chairs increased from 39 in 1982 to more than 100 when he departed, and faculty salaries continuously increased as well.
Wyatt retired as chancellor in July 2000 and was succeeded by Gordon Gee.