Visit Vanderbilt

19Linda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – “Your trip to Nashville is not complete until you visit Vanderbilt.” That’s what it says in their brochure. No kidding, the loveliest bit of tourist info I have in my stack of “things to do in Nashville” is from Vanderbilt University. You expect bastions of learning to focus on enticements to attract new students, or new donors, and research institutions to tout their contributions to the world and their ranking in the research dollars they pull in every year. You expect institutions with high-profile sports programs – especially money-makers football and basketball – to brag and strut. But I’ve never yet come across an institution of learning that invites you to come to its campus simply because it offers so much for a visitor to experience. “Vanderbilt is more than a world-class university. It is a playground for the senses, open to anyone with a curious heart and mind and an appreciation for beauty and vibrancy.” That’s downright poetic! The visitor brochure I have in hand unfolds to a 9 x 24-inch display; a matte finish pleasing to the eye; photos show students in various settings: walking beneath sunlit golden trees, studying beside a peaceful fountain; 19 vanderbilt logocheering a ball game, shopping at the bookstore, playing violin. There are pictures of a historic building, a classroom, a reception hall, the dining room. But even more critical to an actual visit is the information panel –the address and a map; the website and a phone number. It advises where to park, and which building to visit first. Go to Kirkland Hall; the university receptionist can answer questions and talk to you about touring the campus. Vanderbilt wants me to visit, I’m convinced.

19 commodore vanderbiltVanderbilt is an urban campus, occupying 330 acres between two main downtown streets – West End Avenue and 21st Avenue. It’s been around since 1873, when “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt donated a million dollars to help create a university that would “strengthen the ties that should exist between all sections of our common country” after the Civil War. Today there are about 23,000 students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors on any given day; they come from every state and countries all around the world. Commodore Vanderbilt, a New Yorker, never saw the University that eventually was named for him; it was one of only two philanthropic causes he supported in his advancing age. I continued reading the elegant brochure, deciding what I’d like to see.

19 fine arts galleryArt. The Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery showcases pieces from the Vanderbilt Collection; European Old Master paintings, modern American prints, and African, Oceanic, and pre-Columbian works. The Sarratt Gallery in the Student Center has works by emerging regional and national artists. Ben Shahn has a mosaic mural here; and there is Dale Chihuly glass.

Arboretum. The entire campus is a registered arboretum; there are 6,000 trees, including an oak certified to have been growing on the site since before the Revolutionary War.

Dining. Eat at the Overcup Oak in the Student Center, or eat at Grins, Nashville’s only kosher vegetarian restaurant. There’s a café in the Peabody Library, the Commons Center, and the Medical Center terrace.

19 old gymHistoric. The Vaughn Home was built as a faculty residence in 1875; it’s now the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. Old Central is the only building on campus that predates the University; it was built in 1859 as a private residence and stands in a grove of Vanderbilt’s oldest trees with Victorian-style Benson Science Hall. The West Side Row cottages were Vanderbilt’s first student residences; the Old Gym, built in 1889, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kirkland Hall was constructed in 1905 and features a classic clock tower.

Performing Arts. Live performances, artists from around the world, homegrown talent from the Blair School of Music and the theatre and dance programs. They’ve thoughtfully provided an online calendar of events.

Shopping. The Barnes & Noble at 25th and West End carries the typical Barnes & Noble stuff, plus books by Vanderbilt faculty and Vanderbilt apparel. The gift shop in the Monroe Carrell Jr Children’s Hospital sells unique gifts and quality toys.

19 stadium entranceSports. Vanderbilt is a member of the Southeastern Conference; the Commodore teams compete in baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track and field. “SEC sporting events are wonderful family outings,” states the brochure.

Worship. Religious services for people of all faiths; quiet places for prayer and meditation. There’s the Rhea Chapel in the lobby of Vanderbilt Hospital 19 childrens chapeland a chapel at Monroe Carrell Jr Children’s Hospital; St Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel on 24th Ave S; the Schulman Center for Jewish Life, Benton Chapel, and All Faith Chapel in the Divinity Quadrangle.

Vanderbilt was the first university in Tennessee to be recognized for environmentally friendly construction by LEED; the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons is one of the largest collections of LEED certified buildings in the southeast. The Green Screen kiosk in the Commons Center explains the building’s “green” features; at Buttrick Hall old biology labs were transformed into bright classrooms and office space with a beautiful atrium, a great example of adaptive reuse.

19 tsu shirtsAn urban campus sounds like a great place to be on a warm spring day; the dogwood has just started to bloom; what a sight to see on beautiful campus grounds and city parks. Vanderbilt sits between Centennial Park with its famous replica of the Parthenon, and the blocks and blocks that make 19 fisk peopleup Music Row, but Vanderbilt isn’t the only campus in town. Tennessee State University has a huge campus near the river west of Centennial State Park and the state capitol; Fisk University is there too. My map shows Belmont University south of Vanderbilt, Trevecca Nazarene University to the east, and Aquinas College to the west.

Lucky Nashville, you have great treasures here!

About Vanderbilt University. Private, research university,

About Tennessee State University. Public, land-grant school,

About Fisk University. Private, liberal arts,

About Belmont University. Private, liberal arts,

About Trevecca Nazarene University. Private, Christian liberal arts,

About Aquinas College. Catholic, two and four-year programs,

 19 dogwood gardens