Endowed Chairs

An endowed chair is the highest award a university can bestow on a faculty member, usually in the form of recognition (a title that is typically named according to the donor's wishes) and financial support.  It is established by a donation to the university and exists to honor the donor as well as the named holder of the appointment. 

The nomination and appointment process for those who will occupy endowed chairs must be rigorous and transparent, assuring that endowed chair resources are supporting the institution's most distinguished faculty.  The Executive Faculty of Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine has approved a process for review and appointment of a faculty member to an endowed chair.  You may access this document by following the link below:

Vanderbilt School of Medicine Endowed Chair Nomination and Appointment Procedures

Process Summary

Nomination Packet:

  1. The Department Chair/Center Director sends a nomination packet to the Office of Faculty Affairs (to the attention of Diane Sussman) that includes the nominees's CV and a letter addressed to the Dean, providing the nominee's qualifications as well as comments regarding the effects of the nomination on retention, recruitment, or promotion.  The letter should also include a recommended list of faculty members to serve on the review committee (see review committee requirements below). 
  2. If there is a question about the status or exact title of the endowed chair, please contact Diane Sussman in the Office of Faculty Affairs to verify.
  3. If a faculty member is being nominated for an endowed chair at the time of initial appointment, please include a note about the endowed chair nomination in the chair letter that is included in the faculty member's appointment packet.  This will allow the Office of Faculty Affairs to expedite the process by having the endowed chair nomination reviewed during the standard appointment review process by the Faculty Appointments and Promotions Committee (FAPC).

Letters of Support: 

  1. The nominee will need a minimum of five (5) referee letters for consideration by the review committee. 
  2. No more than two (2) of these letters may come from Vanderbilt faculty members. 
  3. If the nominee has been through an appointment or promotion process, reviewed by the FAPC, within the last three years, or is currently being considered for appointment/promotion, the letters used in the appointment/promotion dossier may be used to support the endowed chair nomination.  If these letters are not available, the Office of Faculty Affairs will solicit referee letters based on recommendations supplied by the nominator.

Review Committee:

  1. A review committee will be assembled by the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. 
  2. The committee will be comprised of five (5) members who should be endowed chair holders, no more than two (2) of which may be from the nominator or nominee's primary department.  The nominator may not be a member of the review committee.  One member will be identified as the committee chair and will coordinate the committee's activities with the Office of Faculty Affairs, including communicating the committee's final recommendation.
  3. The Office of Faculty Affairs will support the review process by providing nomination materials, including referee letters, to the committee.
  4. The review committee may discuss and vote on the nomination via email, or meet in person, if deemed necessary by the committee chair.
  5. The chair of the review committee will present the recommendation of the committee in a letter addressed to the Dean (submitted to Diane Sussman in the Office of Faculty Affairs).

Approval & Notification:

  1. After receiving the recommendation of the review committee, the Dean, in conjunction with the Provost, recommends approval of the chair to the Chancellor.
  2. After the chair has been approved by the Chancellor, the nominee is officially notified of the new appointment by a letter from the Dean, usually delivered by the nominator.
  3. All new endowed chair holders will be celebrated at an Institutional Endowed Chair Holder Event (these occur several times per year).


Q: What is the term for an endowed chair?

A: The term for an endowed chair is typically seven (7) years, with opportunity for renewal after a review process. 

Q: When can an endowed chair begin using the new title?  When can the endowed chair be announced?

A: All new endowed chair holders will be celebrated at an Institutional Endowed Chair Holder Event (these occur several times per year).

There may be no public announcements of the appointment to the endowed chair until after the Institutional Endowed Chair Holder Event.  The name of the chair or announcement of the chair appointment may not appear in external websites, VU websites, internal or external print publications, press releases, or event programs.

The school/department may not hold their own endowed chair event until after the Institutional Endowed Chair Holder Event.

Once appointed (the chair holder and nominator will receive a notification letter from the Dean when the appointment is approved), the chair holder may begin to immediately use the formal chair name on letterhead, business cards, peer-reviewed publication, personal and lab websites (such as CV or bio sketch pages) and signature lines.

The school may announce (print, web, etc.) that a new faculty member has been hired, but may not mention the chair name/title until after the Institutional Endowed Chair Holder Event. 

Q: How is an endowed chair renewed?
A: Endowed chairs will be reviewed for renewal at the interval specified at the time of appointment. The Department Chair/Center Director responsible for the management of the endowed chair will submit (to Diane Sussman in the Office of Faculty Affairs) an updated CV and a letter addressed to the Dean recommending that the endowed chair holder be reappointed.
Q: What is the difference between an endowed chair and a directorship?

A: Endowed chairs are supported by gifts to the University and are awarded to faculty members.  The Office of Faculty Affairs coordinates the process for these awards to faculty members in the School of Medicine.  They must be reviewed by a committee, by the Dean of the School of Medicine as well as the Provost, and must ultimately be approved by the Chancellor.    

Directorships are supported by gifts to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and are awarded to employees of VUMC.  They must ultimately be approved by the President of VUMC.  For more information about the process for awarding a Directorship, please contact Diane Sussman in the Office of Faculty Affairs.