Unprecedented Gift Galvanizes Vandy United

Jennifer and Billy Frist’s historic gift to be commemorated with Frist Athletics Village

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt University today announced an unprecedented philanthropic gift from Vanderbilt trustee Jennifer R. Frist, BS’93, and William R. (Billy) Frist to support Vandy United, another bold step forward as the landmark campaign reaches its second anniversary.

The establishment of the Frist Athletics Village honors one of the largest gifts in Vanderbilt Athletics history. The complex encompasses the entirety of the campus neighborhood that is currently home to Vanderbilt Athletics. The area includes FirstBank Stadium, Memorial Gymnasium, Hawkins Field, the Lummis Family Tennis Center, the McGugin Center and Ingram Center for Student-Athlete Success. By reinforcing Vandy United’s investment in student-athletes and programs through major facilities and operational enhancements, the Frists, who are longtime Vanderbilt supporters and parents of a current Vanderbilt student, hope to inspire other members of the university community to continue building on the campaign’s unparalleled success.

“The Frist Athletics Village ensures that our alumni, current and future student-athletes and supporters experience what is great about Vanderbilt Athletics,” said Candice Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director. “Two years after launching Vandy United as a vision for what is possible for Vanderbilt Athletics, we have shovels in the ground because so many people believed in what we could accomplish together. But as we mark National Student-Athlete Day, delivering on our commitment to creating the best student-athlete and fan experience in college athletics requires transformational acts built on a foundation of trust. I’m grateful to Billy and Jennifer Frist for their trust. In the classroom, on the court and field and in the community, we are dedicated to the lifelong realization of human potential. Thanks to the generosity of so many, and, in particular, Billy and Jennifer, we are delivering on that promise.”

Launched in March 2021 as the largest undertaking of its kind in university history, Vandy United is already reimagining Vanderbilt Athletics’ campus footprint. Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Lee recently joined the Frists and other generous supporters to break ground on the multistory basketball operations center and north end zone construction. Work has also begun in the south end zone, a multifaceted project that includes a new building spanning more than 130,000 square feet—home to a new football locker room and training table and dining facilities for all Vanderbilt student-athletes.

“The Frist Athletics Village is a bold statement of support for Vandy United as we imagine what is possible for Vanderbilt Athletics in the 21st century,” Diermeier said. “As we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of our university’s founding, it is crucially important that we keep moving forward and forge a new era of continued excellence in everything we do, including our Vandy United efforts to create the best student-athlete and fan experience in college athletics. In leading by example and lending their name to a neighborhood where Commodores come together, Billy and Jennifer Frist’s wonderful gift honors and exemplifies the tradition of cultivating community that is at the core of our university.”

The Frists are longtime supporters of Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Athletics. Their generosity made possible the 2011 dedication of the William R. Frist Family Gate at FirstBank Stadium. As part of Vandy United’s overall vision for Vanderbilt Athletics, their new gift will help fund projects that include a new football operations center and indoor practice facility, the latter encompassing more than 100,000 square feet and featuring a 120-yard artificial turf practice field.

“I can still picture myself as a young boy sitting in the rain when Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in 1982—and the joy and excitement I felt surrounded by people cheering for our team,” Billy Frist said. “Vanderbilt has such a huge presence in Nashville, and there should be great excitement about what is going on with this unprecedented commitment to facilities and the student-athlete experience. It’s an opportunity for people to get behind the school and support the student-athletes. I didn’t even go to Vanderbilt, but as a lifelong fan I understand that athletics brings us together as a community united by the university. When your team goes out there and wins a game, you feel part of it. I think the community is yearning for this opportunity and ready to get behind it.”

Inspired by Vanderbilt’s tradition of campus neighborhoods and the model of goodwill familiar to sports fans from the Olympic Village, dedication of the Frist Athletics Village represents a unique opportunity to celebrate the community uniting Vanderbilt Athletics. Encompassing many of Vandy United’s cornerstone projects, including the Ingram Center for Student-Athlete Success and the transformation of Jess Neely Drive into a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly greenway, the Frist Athletics Village will shape the day-to-day experience of Vanderbilt student-athletes and provide a welcoming environment as fans come together to watch the Commodores compete.

“We believe in the administration and staff and the direction that Vanderbilt is headed,” Jennifer Frist said. “Vanderbilt is headed in such an upward trend in every area, it’s hard not to want to get behind and help push that momentum going forward. We are proud to be a small part of the truly groundbreaking ideas and direction that Vanderbilt has embarked upon.

“Sport, no matter which one, is a common unifier. It is a common cause for all to get behind and root for your team. It builds alliances and allegiances. We could all use a little of that in our polarized world right now.”

A Nashville native and lifelong Commodores supporter, Billy Frist grew up attending games with his grandfather Dr. Thomas Sr., MD’33, and father, Dr. Thomas Jr., BA’61. He graduated from Princeton and earned his MBA from Harvard.

Named to the Vanderbilt Board of Trust in 2021, Jennifer Frist earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Vanderbilt in 1993 and was inducted into the 2021 class of the School of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni. A dedicated advocate and supporter of many autism initiatives, she and her husband were instrumental in the founding of the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt, and she serves on the center’s advisory board.