Four gifts, one purpose

Rendering of soon-to-open School of Nursing Building. Illustration by Hastings Inc.

The $26.3 million Vanderbilt University School of Nursing expansion, which began last spring, is nearing completion at the intersection of historic Godchaux Hall, Patricia Champion Frist Hall and the Nursing Annex.

The project was aided recently by a range of supporters who together are helping raise the roof. Friends, foundations, alumni and past parents all support the opportunities growing along with the nursing building.

An environment for innovation

Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, says faculty and staff are excited and eager to welcome students to the new building soon. She expects the new environment will also support new directions.

“We are one of the top-ranked nursing programs in the nation but we cannot rest on our achievements. We must continue to pursue innovative ideas that will secure our future,” said Norman, who also holds the Valere Potter Menefee Chair in Nursing. “By fostering more and better connections between students and faculty, this renovation will educate future health care leaders and, as a result, improve the human condition.”

“The new building will also assist our faculty and students in nursing research and in the university’s overall research mission by opening more space for discovery. Our numbers of nursing faculty actively engaged in research has grown significantly over the past five years and the renovation is important to supporting that trend,” Norman said.

An iconic family

The Godchaux family has a long history of involvement with Vanderbilt University that spans five generations. Their support is iconic at the School of Nursing — the main entrance to Mary Ragland Godchaux Hall has long been the public face of the school.

In 2006, Vanderbilt Trustee Emeritus Frank A. Godchaux III and his brother Charles provided funding for the renovation of the school’s oldest building, which was named in honor of the Godchauxes’ mother, Mary Ragland Godchaux. The family continues to support nursing education through scholarships they established. Their latest gift is for a learning or gathering space in the school to be named in honor of Frank’s wife, Agnes K. Godchaux.

“We are proud to have such deep connections to not only the School of Nursing, but the University as a whole. It is exciting to see this expansion happening between the Godchaux and Frist halls and to see all the benefits it will provide to the talented nursing students and faculty,” Frank Godchaux said.

A building partnership

The Christy-Houston Foundation, Inc., which has supported VUSN scholarships, also saw significant merit in the building project as a means of supporting advanced practice nursing. Chartered as a private foundation in 1986, the Christy- Houston Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in Rutherford County, Tennessee, particularly through an emphasis on health care.

“Rutherford County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and our health care needs are growing as well. Many of our county’s employers and citizens depend on the highly qualified advanced practice nurses that Vanderbilt produces, especially in pediatrics, emergency, psychiatric and geriatric care,” said foundation president Anne Davis. “We know that a partnership with the Vanderbilt School of Nursing will support a strong pipeline of talented practitioners in our area.”

A tour and a gift

Vanderbilt nursing alumna Janis Holeman Reynolds, BSN’68, MSN’89, loved her Vanderbilt nursing experience but recalls that even in the 1980s, the school’s buildings did not match the quality of the faculty and programs. Last spring, Reynolds, who now practices law in West Virginia, toured the Owen School of Graduate Management with her husband and son who was considering attending Owen. They also dropped by the School of Nursing for an impromptu mid-construction tour.

“I was excited to hear about the ex-pansion and renovation plans and decided to support the effort in a meaningful way. I am very proud of my Vanderbilt nursing degrees and think the new building is going to bring the school’s facility in line with its high academic quality,” Reynolds said.

Strengthening Vanderbilt

Anne and Hans Wachtmeister, EdD’86, were intrigued to learn of the nursing building expansion at their daughter’s VUSN investiture ceremony in 2016.

“We heard Dean Norman speak about how the new facilities could support teaching and research needs and just felt moved to help. We are proud that our daughter Hannah (DNP’16, MSN’14) is an advanced practice nurse and that she attended Vanderbilt, because we are a Vanderbilt family. I graduated from Peabody in 1986 and my other daughter, Jane, also holds a bachelor’s and master’s from Peabody,” Hans Wachtmeister said.

The Wachtmeisters endowed the Wachtmeister Chair in Teaching and Learning at Peabody in 2017 in honor of their family’s experience at Vanderbilt.

“We are pleased to strengthen Vanderbilt and that our gifts can impact so many people,” he added.

Naming spaces

For more information on supporting the nursing building expansion, contact J. Steven Barnes, Associate Dean for Development, at (615) 343-4474 or at You can watch the construction progress online at

—by Deborah Settles