Chancellor announces next round of Vanderbilt Trailblazers to be honored with portraits

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Committee appointed to determine future honorees of initiative

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced today the second series of portraits honoring five Vanderbilt trailblazers. Zeppos has commissioned paintings of Dorothy Wingfield Phillips, K.C. Potter, David Williams II, Kate Lupton and Muhammad Yunus.

The depictions of the trailblazers will be displayed in Kirkland Hall next year as part of the Vanderbilt Trailblazers initiative, which recognizes individuals in the Vanderbilt community who have broken barriers and made a positive impact both at the university and in society at large. Zeppos also announced the creation of a new committee to determine future rounds of Trailblazer designations.

“Vanderbilt has evolved and made significant progress over its nearly 150 years of existence, and much of this change has come about because of trailblazers who saw our world not just as it was, but as it could be,” Zeppos said. “These five trailblazers are transformational figures in Vanderbilt’s history, and through the Trailblazer portrait series, their legacy will continue to be felt, seen and known in our community for generations to come.”

The portraits are part of an effort to expand the visual narrative of Vanderbilt’s history throughout the campus. The second series of Trailblazer paintings recognizes individuals from various eras of the university’s history:

Kate Lupton in a portrait (Courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives)Kate Lupton (Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives)

Kate Lupton, Vanderbilt’s first female graduate, was not allowed to participate in Commencement exercises so received her diploma in private, silently breaking the gender barrier in 1879. Lupton went on to work in education, becoming a professor of chemistry and physics at Virginia State Normal School and continuing to be an advocate for the education and full inclusion of women at Vanderbilt. When Branscomb Quadrangle was built in 1962, one of the halls was named in honor of Lupton.

Muhammad Yunus smiling(Vanderbilt University/Daniel Dubois)Muhammad Yunus (Vanderbilt)

Muhammad Yunus, who received his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt in 1971, is the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a model for combatting poverty through microlending. The bank has provided $6.5 billion in collateral-free loans to 7.5 million clients, 97 percent of whom are women, in more than 80,000 villages in Bangladesh. Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. He also was named Vanderbilt’s first Distinguished Alumnus in 1996 and received the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal in 2007.

Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips smiling (Vanderbilt University)Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips (Vanderbilt)

Dorothy Wingfield Phillips, who majored in chemistry, was the first African American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from the university in 1967. She went on to earn a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1974 and had a highly esteemed career at Dow Chemical Company and the Waters Corporation. A member of the American Chemical Society since 1973, she was elected to its board of directors in 2013 and continues to serve as director-at-large. In 2017, Vanderbilt honored Phillips by creating two Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowships to support mid-career faculty members who are leaders in diversity in STEM at Vanderbilt.

K.C. Potter smiling (Vanderbilt University/John Russell)K.C. Potter (Vanderbilt)

K.C. Potter, Vanderbilt dean of residential and judicial affairs, emeritus, and a 1964 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, served in key administrative capacities from 1965 to 1998, including as assistant dean of men and associate dean in the Office of Student Life. As dean of residential and judicial affairs, Potter mediated many difficult situations as the campus moved through several transformative decades. In 2008, Euclid House on West Side Row, which is home to the Office of LGBTQI Life, was named in honor of Potter, who was supportive of the LGBTQI community and helped foster an inclusive and affirming environment on campus. The K.C. Potter Center celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2018.

David Williams II smiling and sitting in a chair (Vanderbilt University/John Russell)David Williams II (Vanderbilt)

David Williams II, the university’s first African American vice chancellor and the first African American athletics director in the Southeastern Conference, was a nationally recognized figure in college athletics and higher education. As vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director, Williams led Vanderbilt to great success on and off the field. Williams was also instrumental in leading efforts to recognize and reconcile with 1960s African American basketball players Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard, and educating current students, faculty and staff about the university’s past. Williams died in February after returning to the faculty at Vanderbilt Law School in January.

The portraits of each trailblazer will hang in Kirkland Hall for approximately one year before being placed permanently in locations across campus.

The newly established Vanderbilt Trailblazers Committee appointed by Zeppos will determine future honorees and where depictions of them will be permanently housed. The Vanderbilt Trailblazers Committee includes:

  • Holly Algood, associate professor of medicine; vice chair-elect, Faculty Senate
  • Frances Burton, president-elect, Vanderbilt Student Government
  • Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Fine Arts
  • Xiu Cravens, associate dean for international affairs, Peabody College
  • Rory Dicker, director, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center
  • Dennis Dickerson, James M. Lawson Jr. Professor of History
  • Frank Dobson, associate dean of students
  • Scott Glasgow, senior special events coordinator, Human Resources; chair, Human Resources Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Candice Lee, associate vice chancellor for athletics
  • Jeff Loudon, senior relationship manager, Vanderbilt University Information Technology; vice president/president-elect, University Staff Advisory Council
  • Melanie Moran, associate vice chancellor for university relations, Communications
  • Rosevelt Noble, assistant dean of students; director, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
  • James Page, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer
  • JaNiene Peoples, student well-being coordinator, Center for Student Wellbeing
  • Chris Purcell, director, LGBTQI Life
  • Tina Smith, associate vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Moses Taylor Jr., Vanderbilt alumnus; member, Chancellor’s ’Dores of Distinction Alumni Advisory Board

The 2019-20 president of the Graduate Student Council also will be appointed to the committee once that person is announced.

The Vanderbilt Trailblazers project was launched in 2018 by Zeppos to elevate awareness of and give recognition to the many pioneers who dedicated themselves to advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, respect and dignity for all members of the Vanderbilt community.

In October 2018, Zeppos unveiled the four inaugural Trailblazer portraits painted by world-renowned artist Simmie Knox in honor of Perry Wallace, the Rev. James Lawson Jr., the Rev. Walter R. Murray and Bishop Joseph Johnson. The portraits currently reside in the parlor of the Mary McClure Taylor Lobby in Kirkland Hall and will be moved to their permanent locations on campus in the fall.

Visit the Vanderbilt Trailblazers project website to learn more about the initiative.