Vanderbilt University
#115 Overall Influence#16 Desirability Rank

Vanderbilt University

Private research university in Nashville, Tennessee, United States

By James Barham, PhD

Vanderbilt University was founded in 1873 as the Central University of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (known as Central University, for short).

The largest benefactor of the new university was the railroad and shipping magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who contributed $1 million—the equivalent of roughly $20 million in today’s dollars. Vanderbilt died in 1877, and later the same year Central University was renamed in honor its main benefactor.

In 1914, the Methodist Church severed its ties to Vanderbilt.

Today, the university is organized into ten colleges and schools. The student body numbers more than 13,000 individuals.

Vanderbilt is associated with nine Nobel laureates, to wit:


  • Biochemist, Stanford Moore
  • Molecular biologist, Sidney Altman

Physiology or Medicine–

  • Molecular biologists, Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück
  • Biochemists, Stanley Cohen and Earl Sutherland
  • Neuroscientist, Paul Greengard


  • Bangladeshi economist and micro-banking pioneer, Muhammad Yunus
  • US Vice President and climate activist, Al Gore

Vanderbilt is also linked to the Fields Medalists—Vaughan Jones and Alain Connes.

Other prominent Vanderbilt-connected individuals include the following:

  • Mathematicians, D.M. Smith, Michael Plummer, Edward Saff, Mark Sapir, Guoliang Yu & Aleksandr Olshansky
  • Computer scientist, Paul Hudak
  • Philosophers, Richard M. Weaver, Sandra J. Rosenthal, John Lachs, John Heil, Tom Rockmore & Robert Arrington
  • Poets Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Randall Jarrell, James Dickey & Diann Blakely
  • Poet and novelist, Robert Penn Warren
  • Novelist, Ellen Gilchrist
  • Short fiction author, Lorrie Moore
  • Non-fiction author, Michelle Alexander
  • Crime author, James Patterson
  • Playwright, William Inge
  • Literary scholar, Cleanth Brooks
  • Artist, Red Grooms
  • Bassoonist, Peter Kolkay
  • Classical composers, Michael Alec Rose & Evan Mack
  • Musicologist, George Pullen Jackson
  • Popular singer-songwriters, Amy Ray, Amy Grant & Chris Stapleton
  • Singer, actor, and TV personality, Dinah Shore
  • Film director, Delbert Mann
  • Film scholar, Sam Girgus
  • Film critic, Joe Bob Briggs (John Irving Bloom)
  • Astronomers, Edward Emerson Barnard, Carl Keenan Seyfert & J. Davy Kirkpatrick
  • Physicists, Joseph Melvin Reynolds & Kenneth Galloway
  • Space scientist, Herbert Gursky
  • Electrical engineers, Sokrates Pantelides & Kimberly Bryant
  • Chemists, Charles Baskerville, Charlotte Froese Fischer, Jens Meiler & Dorothy J. Phillips
  • Geologist, James Perrin Smith
  • Biophysicist, John Wikswo
  • Molecular biologists, Peter Walter, Tom Maniatis & Ghanshyam Swarup
  • Pathologist, Ernest Goodpasture
  • Neuroscientists, Mriganka Sur & Lisa Monteggia
  • Epidemiologist, Dorothy Horstmann
  • Pathologist and medical historian, William A. Pusey
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons, Norman Shumway & Levi Watkins
  • Biomedical engineer, Anita Mahadevan-Jansen
  • Psychologists, John Ridley Stroop, Logan Wright & Shirley Collado
  • Psychiatrists, Carol Tamminga, Jonathan Metzl & John Fryer
  • Historians, William Yandell Elliott, Sheldon Hackney, Louis R. Harlan, Mark A. Noll & Neil McMillen
  • Economists, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Henry Manne, Herman Daly, Markus Brunnermeier, Martha Bailey, Myrna Wooders, Carolyn Heinrich & Faisal Basri
  • Political scientists, Cullen Gosnell, Lee Siegelman & Larry Bartels
  • Archaeologist, Edward Craig Morris
  • Journalist, political commentator, and biographer, David Maraniss
  • Political commentator and humorist, Roy Blount, Jr.
  • Journalist, Richard Quest
  • TV journalist, David Brinkley
  • Former US Supreme Court Justice, James Clark McReynolds
  • Present Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear
  • Present Texas Governor, Greg Abbott
  • Former US Senator Jim Sasser
  • Former US Senator and actor, Fred Thompson
  • Current US Senators, Lamar Alexander & John N. Kennedy
  • Former US Vice President, John Nance Garner


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


Median SAT Score


Median ACT Score



How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


Fees (in-state)


IncomeAverage Net Cost

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

Avg Earnings




Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body






The Campus

Where will you be attending?


2101 West End Avenue, Nashville TN 37240

On Campus Crime Rates

Property Crime

30 per 100k

Violent Crime

3 per 100k

What is Vanderbilt University known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#16 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#43 World Rank #29 USA Rank
#71 World Rank #33 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#43 World Rank #37 USA Rank
#65 World Rank #42 USA Rank
#93 World Rank #46 USA Rank
#89 World Rank #47 USA Rank
#73 World Rank #52 USA Rank
Political Science
#168 World Rank #63 USA Rank
#112 World Rank #65 USA Rank
Computer Science
#110 World Rank #66 USA Rank
#127 World Rank #67 USA Rank
#126 World Rank #69 USA Rank
#119 World Rank #70 USA Rank
#189 World Rank #71 USA Rank
#213 World Rank #79 USA Rank
#207 World Rank #81 USA Rank
#212 World Rank #89 USA Rank
#194 World Rank #94 USA Rank
#238 World Rank #114 USA Rank
#201 World Rank #150 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#56 World Rank #47 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#177 World Rank #117 USA Rank
Social Work

Influential People

Who are Vanderbilt University's Most influential alumni?

Vanderbilt University's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Nursing, Business, and Medical. Vanderbilt University’s most academically influential people include Muhammad Yunus, Robert Penn Warren, and Allen Tate.

Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus

Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

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Robert Penn Warren
Robert Penn Warren

American poet, novelist, and literary critic

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Allen Tate
Allen Tate

American poet, essayist and social commentator

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Cleanth Brooks
Cleanth Brooks

American literary critic and academic

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John Crowe Ransom
John Crowe Ransom

American poet

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James Patterson
James Patterson

American author

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Richard M. Weaver

American scholar

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David Brinkley
David Brinkley

American journalist

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Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell

Poet, critic, novelist, essayist

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Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander

American lawyer, civil rights activist and writer

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Henry Manne

American legal scholar

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Christopher J. Wiernicki
Christopher J. Wiernicki

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