Named for philanthropist Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who donated $1 million in 1873 to found a university that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country,” Vanderbilt University (www.vanderbilt.edu ) is now one of the region’s most respected institutions of higher education.
A private research university, Vanderbilt University has an enrollment of 6,300 undergraduates and 5,200 graduates. The university comprises 10 schools, a medical center, public policy center, and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Originally just 75 acres, the university had grown to 250 acres by 1960. When the George Peabody School for Teachers merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, another 53 acres were added.
Vanderbilt’s campus life is vibrant, and there is a daily roll call of lectures, recitals, exhibits, and other special events. Check Vanderbilt’s online events calendar  for an up-to-date listing of all campus events.
Prospective students and their parents can sign up for a campus tour. Vanderbilt also offers a self-guided tour of the campus’s trees, which form the Vanderbilt Arboretum. Most trees on the tour are native trees common to Nashville  and Middle Tennessee. This is a nice activity for people who want to hone tree identification skills. Download a podcast or print a paper copy of the tour from the website or contact the university for more information.
Vanderbilt University also has two excellent art galleries: The Sarratt Gallery (Sarratt Student Center, Vanderbilt Place near 24th Ave., 615/322-2471, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.) has a more contemporary bent than the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery (Fine Arts Bldg., Mon.–Fri. noon–4 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 1–5 p.m., free), which includes works that demonstrate the development of both Eastern and Western art, plus six different traveling exhibits annually. The Fine Arts Gallery is located near the intersection of West End and 23rd Avenues. Both galleries are closed or limit their hours during university holidays and semester breaks, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
There is designated visitor parking in several lots on the Vanderbilt campus. Look on the eastern edge of the sports facilities parking lot off Natchez Trace, in the Wesley Place parking lot off Scarritt Place, or in the Terrace Place parking lot between 20th and 21st Avenues north of Broadway.