Vanderbilt’s New Chancellor
Although I doubt I am on his list of daily reads, I nonetheless want to extend my congratulations to Nick Zeppos, formerly provost and interim chancellor, who was appointed Vanderbilt University’s eighth chancellor at today’s Board of Trust meeting.
I first met Nick during my senior year of college. I co-chaired one of the first subcommittees to explore the idea of implementing a residential college system, and he chaired the executive committee. We had only interacted a few times when, during a brief chat in his office one afternoon, he mentioned that he was hosting a few students at his house for dinner that night and invited me to join. It was sudden, and I didn’t know any of the other guests, but who was I to turn down a personal invitation from the provost?
Nick’s wife made amazing homemade pizzas, and he asked us all sorts of questions about our academic and social activities, intellectual interests, career goals — all “networking” questions that weren’t nearly as comfortable for me at the time. It was also at Nick’s house that I first met Jacob Grier, whose most recent claim to fame was writing a column opposing residential colleges in the campus libertarian newspaper. (To this day, I think Nick invited me to dinner just to pick a fight with Jacob on this issue.) As Jacob later introduced me to my current employer, that bit of networking on Nick’s part proved rather effective.
Then-Chancellor Gee had a reputation for remembering names and faces, but I was always just a bit miffed that he could never remember mine despite how many times we interacted. Nick, by contrast, smiled and engaged me in conversation every time we saw each other on campus. More significantly, when I applied for graduate school at Vanderbilt, Nick wrote a reference that was — I am firmly convinced — instrumental to my acceptance.
Nick has played a far more significant role in my life than I suspect he knows. He is a bright scholar, a capable leader, and a thoughtful and caring person, and I believe that Vanderbilt and the Board of Trust will not regret giving him this opportunity.