Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos is stepping down due to health problems.
The university announced Zeppos will leave the position in August but plans to return to the school as a law professor after a yearlong sabbatical. No details about his health were disclosed.
“I truly love Vanderbilt and serving you has been a privilege. Yet my health is presenting challenges that demand my focus, with the love and support of my family,” Zeppos wrote Tuesday. “Passing the torch of leadership of this great university from one chancellor to another is never easy, but it is inevitable.”
Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Susan Wente will serve as interim chancellor while the school conducts a search for Zeppos’ permanent replacement.
Zeppos has held numerous roles at the school dating back to 1987, when he was hired as an assistant law professor. In 2008, while serving as interim chancellor, he was elevated to the permanent job.
Zeppos oversaw some of the headiest times in Vanderbilt athletics, with the football team appearing in bowl games more often than not during his tenure, including
three years straight under former coach James Franklin. Vanderbilt baseball also
won a national title in 2014 and became a regular in the College World Series.
However, in recent years the administration has struggled to balance fundraising for athletics with academics. Zeppos was even accused of sabotaging efforts to raise money for a new footballs stadium, according to
Board of Trust Chair Bruce Evans credits Zeppos with shepherding the school through the Great Recession and broadening access and affordability through Opportunity Vanderbilt, a financial aid program that replaced loans with scholarships.
Zeppos is also noted for trying to address issues of diversity at the school. He created the role of vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, and he led efforts to honor trailblazers at Vanderbilt, including Perry Wallace, who broke the color barrier in SEC basketball.