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Biography of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos

Nicholas S. 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 to 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; Warren and Moore colleges for upperclassmen; and Vanderbilt Barnard College, the next phase of the university’s unique living-learning residential college system. Other key advancements include the restructuring of the institution to split out clinical health care operations into a new corporate entity; the Academic Strategic 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 February of 2016, Zeppos was honored by Insight Into Diversity magazine for his commitment to diversity and inclusion with its national Giving Back award.

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, Zeppos created an expanded financial aid program in 2009. By replacing undergraduate need-based loans with grant and scholarship assistance, this transformative initiative allows Vanderbilt to open its doors wider to highly talented and qualified students of all economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds. The expanded aid program is a top university priority and is funded by a combination of strategic budget allocations and gifts from thousands of generous donors to Opportunity Vanderbilt, a campaign to increase undergraduate scholarship endowment.

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, 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 August 1, 2007, until March 1, 2008, when he was appointed chancellor.

The Chancellor is a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, chair of the Association of American Universities, and serves on a number of institutions’ Board of Directors, including Consortium on Financing Higher Education and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  He has served previously as president of the Southeastern Conference and co-chair of the United States Senate-appointed Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.

He is married to Lydia A. Howarth, an accomplished editor. They have two sons, Benjamin and Nicholas.