Vanderbilt Extends Chancellor Diermeier's Contract to 2035

Vanderbilt University

At a moment when universities across the country face severe leadership challenges, the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust has extended the contract of Vanderbilt's chief executive, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, through 2035, the board announced today.

Although Diermeier's contract was not set to expire until 2027, Board of Trust Chairman Bruce Evans, BE'81, said the board approved the "significant term extension" during its regular spring meeting earlier this month "as a demonstration of our confidence in Chancellor Diermeier's leadership, and to support the realization of his long-term vision for the university."

"Since becoming chancellor in 2020, Daniel has built on the work of his predecessors to bring energy and bold new direction to Vanderbilt, unlocking ever more of the university's potential," Evans said. "While some universities have been challenged to fill vacancies in their executive offices, Vanderbilt is fortunate to have an immensely skilled and visionary chancellor who is not only leading the university community through the current challenges facing higher education, but also taking the ambitious and innovative steps necessary to establish Vanderbilt as the great research university of the 21st century."

Evans cited Diermeier's leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, the university's consistently positive operational performance, the ongoing transformation of Vanderbilt athletics and multiple ambitious strategic initiatives as reasons for extending his contract. Beyond Vanderbilt, said Evans, "Daniel has established a position as a leader in higher education. People listen to what he says."

"I am deeply honored by the board's confidence and support of our shared vision for Vanderbilt," Diermeier said. "Vanderbilt is an extraordinary institution composed of exceptional people and programs. Yet as I said at my investiture: We are proud, but we are not satisfied. At a time of unprecedented challenge and change in higher education, and with society facing urgent and even existential challenges, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to define and model what excellence in a university can be. I am excited to collaborate with the rest of the university's leadership, with faculty, students and staff, and with our alumni, parents and donors to build on the great work we've done together and to 'dare to grow' even more boldly in the coming months and years."

Diermeier assumed the chancellor's role on July 1, 2020, taking over from Interim Chancellor Susan R. Wente and succeeding Nicholas S. Zeppos, Vanderbilt's eighth chancellor. His first milestone achievement was safely bringing students back to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, making Vanderbilt one of a small number of the nation's top universities to do so. Later in 2020 he launched the $100 million Destination Vanderbilt initiative to recruit leading faculty.

In the nearly four years since, Diermeier has led an ambitious program of expansion and improvement and become a leading national voice in support of free expression, institutional neutrality and civil discourse on college campuses.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver said the board's extension of Diermeier's contract "marks a pivotal moment for our institution as we look forward to a decade of excellence and groundbreaking achievements."

Diermeier has been "an exemplary and visionary leader," said Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Peabody College. "He is making Vanderbilt a destination for a world-class experience in which faculty and students can thrive."

Under Diermeier's leadership, Vanderbilt has attracted a record number of admissions applications, posted its highest percentage of admitted students attending and expanded financial aid through Opportunity Vanderbilt. It has also topped the $1 billion mark in research expenditures, surpassed traditional innovation leaders Stanford and MIT in technology licensing income in 2022, and set a Vanderbilt record for licensing revenue in 2023. Vanderbilt's endowment has grown from $6.9 billion to more than $10 billion on Diermeier's watch.

"Daniel has been an exceptional leader and colleague over the past four years, and I'm looking forward to our continued partnership to further both the university and medical center's missions," said Jeff Balser, president and chief executive officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Last year, Vanderbilt also set a single-year fundraising record, the same year it launched "Dare to Grow," a $3.2 billion fundraising initiative. In 2021, the university launched Vandy United, a $300 million fundraising campaign for athletics that is the largest such undertaking in university history. Vandy United is supporting major facilities and operational enhancements that will help student-athletes thrive and compete while also improving the fan experience.

"Commodore Nation is stronger today because of Chancellor Diermeier's unwavering belief in the power of athletics to unite communities, inspire growth and transform lives," said Candice Storey Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director.

In the fall of 2023, Vanderbilt launched Dialogue Vanderbilt, a multifaceted initiative to promote civil discourse on campus and affirm Vanderbilt's long-standing commitment to free expression.

Diermeier has worked to increase Vanderbilt's innovation partnerships with corporations and its collaboration with Nashville and other communities across the region. He is spearheading cross-sector initiatives to employ Vanderbilt's innovative capacity to expand and deepen Middle Tennessee's innovation ecosystem. At the same time, Diermeier is building Vanderbilt's reputation globally and expanding the university's presence in the U.S. and abroad.

With Diermeier at the helm, Vanderbilt has increased its research partnerships with the U.S. military, launched the annual Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats and established the Vanderbilt Institute for National Defense and Global Security. Vanderbilt was selected as the host of the Clinton Global Initiative University in early 2023 and launched a continuing celebration of the university's Sesquicentennial.

Earlier this year, Diermeier and Raver launched an effort that will establish the Vanderbilt College of Connected Computing, which will be dedicated to computer science, AI, data science and related fields. The CCC will be the university's first new college since Vanderbilt merged with the Blair School of Music in 1981.

Former Tennessee governor and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, BA'62-who is past president of the University of Tennessee and is now a member of Vanderbilt's Board of Trust-said Diermeier's contract extension comes at a significant time.

"At a time when other universities are having trouble with leadership, it is good news that Vanderbilt's Board of Trust and Daniel have agreed to a lengthy extension of his contract as chancellor," Alexander said.

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