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Nicholas S. Zeppos

Chancellor Emeritus
University Distinguished Professor of Law and Political Science University Distinguished Professor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus Chair

Nicholas S. Zeppos rejoined the faculty in 2020, after serving for more than a decade as Vanderbilt University’s eighth chancellor. An esteemed legal scholar, teacher, and higher education leader, Chancellor Zeppos was honored in November 2019 with two new appointments as University Distinguished Professor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus Chair. He joined the Vanderbilt law faculty in 1987 and served as a professor of law and associate dean before joining the university administration as associate provost for academic affairs and vice chancellor and provost. He was named chancellor in 2008.

Under Zeppos’ leadership, Vanderbilt University has become one of America’s foremost research institutions with the launch of Opportunity Vanderbilt, The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, and Vanderbilt’s residential college system. Zeppos led the complex transition of the university and Vanderbilt University Medical Center into two separate legal and financial entities. An outspoken supporter for a more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive campus culture, Zeppos created the role of vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer and helped promote a campus wide mental health campaign. Throughout his career, Zeppos has been an effective advocate for higher education. He co-chaired the bipartisan U.S. Senate Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education and conducted the foremost national study on the high cost of regulatory burdens on America’s research universities. 

He has been recognized with multiple awards, including INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s Giving Back Award in 2016, the Tennessee Tribune’s “Person of the Year” in 2016, and the Jack C. Massey Leadership Award from Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee in 2011. As a law professor, he was honored with five teaching awards. 

Zeppos currently serves as a member of the board to Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. He served as the chair of the Association of American Universities Board of Directors and as a board member for the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and as president of the Southeastern Conference Executive Committee.

The Legacy of Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos