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Nicholas S. Zeppos

Professor of Law

Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt University’s eighth chancellor on March 1, 2008.

A distinguished legal scholar, teacher and executive, Zeppos had previously served 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, and Warren and Moore colleges for upperclassmen; and Vanderbilt Barnard, 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 2016, Zeppos was honored by Insight Into Diversity magazine for his commitment to diversity and inclusionwith 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 of law, 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 and serves on a number of institutions’ Board of Directors: Association of American Universities, Foundation for Educational Exchange Between Canada and the United States of America (Fulbright Canada), Mary Parrish Center, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also recently served as president of the Southeastern Conference and co-chair of the United States Senate-appointed Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.

Representative Publications

  • "Monitoring Government Disposition of Assets: Fashioning Regulatory Substitutes for Market Controls," 52 Vanderbilt Law Review 1705 (1999) (with H. Krent)
  • "Department of Justice Litigation: Externalizing Costs and Searching for Subsidies," 61 Law & Contemporary Problems 171 (1998)
  • "Reforming a Private Legislature: The Maturation of the American Law Institute as a Legislative Body," 23 Law & Social Inquiry 657 (1998)
  • "The Legal Profession and the Development of Administrative Law," 72 Chicago-Kent Law Review 1119 (1997)
  • "Judicial Review of Agency Action: The Problems of Commitment, Non-Contractibility and the Proper Incentives," 44 Duke Law Journal 1133 (1995)
  • "Chief Justice Rehnquist: The Two Faces of Ultra-Pluralism and the Originalist Fallacy," 25 Rutgers Law Journal 679 (1994)
  • "The Use of Authority in Statutory Interpretation: An Empirical Analysis," 70 Texas Law Review 1073 (1992)
  • "The Administrative State," "Justice David M. Souter" and "Justice Clarence Thomas," in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, Oxford University Press (1992)