NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chancellor Daniel Diermeier asked alumni, fans and supporters to “help start a new chapter in the history of Vanderbilt Athletics.” Two months later, Commodore Nation is already writing a success story through its robust support of the Vandy United Fund.
Launched as the largest undertaking of its kind in university history, the Vandy United Fund is $300 million investment campaign that reimagines the student-athlete and fan experiences. Through major facilities and operational enhancements and an enhanced game day experience, the Vandy United initiative commits to creating the best student-athlete experience in college sports and further strengthening the university’s connection with the Nashville community.
Vanderbilt had already identified $200 million toward the overall goal when the fund was announced March 29, with a $100 million commitment from the university, $90 million from anonymous donors and a $10 million lead gift from Board of Trust member and longtime Vanderbilt supporter John R. Ingram. Diermeier and Candice Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director, then reached out to the university community to join the movement through the Vandy United Fund.
And with accelerating momentum as summer arrives, donors are doing just that.
“We could not have launched the Vandy United Fund without the deep and abiding affection Commodore Nation has for this university,” Lee said. “I am profoundly grateful for the overwhelming response thus far from the alumni and fans. I am thankful that so many people already responded, and I am excited to continue welcoming donors to stand united with us.”
In just two months, 385 donors have contributed to the Vandy United Fund, including a significant number of commitments at the National Commodore Club’s new McGugin Society level. The philanthropic support is no less bold than Vandy United’s vision for empowering student-athletes to reach their full potential.
“I’m enthusiastic about the direction and vision for Vanderbilt Athletics—what it means for the teams and the programs and how it will position Vanderbilt to compete,” said Crews Johnston, BA’91, whose daughter, Lucie, is a current student. “We’re thrilled to support all that’s to come and to be a part of this growth.”
Investments in new facilities and upgrades of existing facilities include new operations centers for the football and men’s and women’s basketball programs, a new indoor football practice facility and an expanded McGugin Center that will include a new sport performance center for the team led by newly appointed associate athletic director for sport performance James Dobson.
Selected by Vanderbilt as the master architect for projects, Populous recently conducted a site visit. Members of the Populous team met with Lee, deputy athletic directors Kristene Kelly and Tommy McClelland, vice chancellor for administration Eric Kopstain and Mark Carter, executive director of the National Commodore Club. They discussed the initial plans for the facility upgrades and construction that donors are excited to see reshape the athletics footprint on campus.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Pat Emery, a local supporter and dedicated football and men’s basketball season ticket holder. “I have a lot of optimism for the future and how the plans are taking shape. With the university’s investment and now the momentum among donors, it’s all coming together.”
Local support is one of the pillars of Vandy United, which includes a stated goal of improving the fan experience, broadening engagement and strengthening what is already a bond of nearly 150 years with the Nashville community.
“Vandy United goes beyond bricks and mortar,” Diermeier said. “We believe one of the world’s preeminent academic institutions in one of the nation’s most vibrant cities can thrive in the most competitive conference in college sports. Nashville is among our greatest assets. This community remains indispensable to what Vanderbilt is and what Vanderbilt athletics can be.
Donors from the community have already responded generously.
“Vanderbilt Athletics is such a presence in our community. For so many years, rain or shine, I have come to games to cheer on the Commodores. I’m really looking forward to the improvements and how the game day experience will be even better for the fans,” said Nan Speller, who has supported Vanderbilt Athletics for more than 50 years.
Vanderbilt hopes to share further details renderings of the first phase of facility projects this summer. Construction on the football operations center and the basketball operations center is expected to begin after the conclusion of the 2021 season.
For more information and to become part of the movement, visit the Vandy United site.