Contributed by Eugenia Hobday
Harvie Branscomb describes zeppelin attack while in Paris
April 12, 1915
Dallas Morning News
March 30, 1931
Dallas Morning News
November 14, 1946
Vanderbilt's Debt to Alabama
The Anniston Star, August 15, 1946
Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus
Harvie Branscomb dies at 103
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Harvie Branscomb, a theologian and educator who, as
Chancellor of Vanderbilt University from 1946 to 1963, put the institution on
the path to recognition as a national university, died July 24 at his home in
Nashville, Tennessee. Born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1894, he was 103 years
Branscomb was a major figure on the national and international educational
scene. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed him as the first chairman of
the U.S. Advisory Commission for Education Exchange, which he led for four
years. He later was named chairman of the Commission on Education and
International Affairs of the American Council of Education (1955-58). Branscomb
served as an educational consultant to the World Bank (1962-63), and he chaired
the U.S. Commission for UNESCO (1963-65).
Branscomb remained active in the years after he retired from Vanderbilt. He
was a member and vice-chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Unesco General
Conference in Paris in 1964. The following year he chaired the U.S. Delegation
to the World Conference on the Eradication of Illiteracy held in Tehran. He
traveled to Geneva as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the World Health
Organization Assembly (1965 and 1966) and to Buenos Aires as chairman of the
U.S. Delegation to the Conference of Ministers of Education and Ministers in
Charge of Planning (1966).
"Faye and I are deeply saddened by the death of Harvie Branscomb," said
Vanderbilt Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt. "He has been a source of great wisdom and
counsel for me personally over the past 16 years and an integral part of
Vanderbilt University for more than half a century.
"So much of Vanderbilt's success today is a direct result of Harvie's
leadership. His influence is apparent in the University's facilities, its
governance, the quality of its students and faculty, and in its research
endeavors. Chancellor Branscomb realized early on the potential for Vanderbilt
to contribute to the nation's education and research efforts and first directed
the University toward becoming an institution of national stature, while
upholding the University's tradition of civility and integrity."
Educated at Birmingham College (later named Birmingham Southern), Harvie
Branscomb was the son of Lewis Capers Branscomb, a prominent Methodist minister.
In 1914, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he took First Honors in
Theology and won a coveted Greek Prize. Branscomb began his career as a New
Testament scholar, which required mastery of Greek, Hebrew and Latin. His
primary contribution was the study of the cultural and religious roots of
Christianity. He later authored four books on theology: "The Message of Jesus"
(1925), "Jesus and the Law of Moses" (1930), "The Teachings of Jesus" (1931) and
"The Gospel of Mark" (1937).
While Rhodes Scholars at Oxford, Branscomb and a fellow student, O.C.
Carmichael, were among a group of American student volunteers who worked for
Herbert Hoover's Commission for Relief in Belgium. The two smuggled a
politically sensitive letter from Cardinal Mercier through the German lines,
despite having the letter in their possession and being searched by German
troops. This letter to Belgian priests encouraged resistance to the German
invasion and was published in the London Times. For this they were awarded the
Medaille du Roi Albert, Medaille de la Reine (Belgium). Carmichael was later
Branscomb's predecessor as Chancellor of Vanderbilt.
After his return from Oxford, Branscomb served as a Lieutenant in the field
artillery, but the war ended before he saw action. He then moved to Southern
Methodist University in Dallas, where met Margaret Vaughan, daughter of a judge
in Greenville, Texas, who became his wife and partner for 71 years. While at
SMU, Branscomb championed the right to academic freedom of another junior
faculty member. In 1923 Branscomb took a year's leave of absence to complete
coursework for a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University.
In 1925, Branscomb moved to Duke University, where he ultimately became dean
of the Divinity School. While at Duke, he served briefly as Director of
Libraries, and in 1940, under sponsorship of the Carnegie Corporation, he
published "Teaching With Books," demonstrating that libraries were seen
primarily as repositories for research materials, and were little used in class
room teaching. He also was decorated by the Brazilian government with the Order
of the Southern Cross for his work in reorganizing the National Library of
Brazil, while serving as chairman of the American Library Association Mission to
Brazil in 1945. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931-32.
He also held honorary degrees from Brandeis University, Northwestern
University, Southern Methodist University, Columbia University, Southwestern
University, Birmingham-Southern and Hebrew Union College.
In 1946 Branscomb was appointed Vanderbilt's chief executive, only the fourth
chancellor since the University's founding in 1873. Under his imaginative and
forceful leadership, the University experienced dynamic growth in nearly every
area and began the transition from an excellent regional institution to one of
Branscomb is credited with transforming the selection process for nominees to
the Board of Trust in order to attract leaders of national as well as local
institutions. He recruited Harold Vanderbilt, great-grandson of founder
Cornelius Vanderbilt, to membership on the Board of Trustees. In an effort to
recruit and retain distinguished scholars and scientists to the University's
faculty, Branscomb urged the Board to reinforce the University's commitment to
academic freedom, raise faculty salaries and recruit distinguished faculty.
During his term as Chancellor, full-time student enrollment reached a
then-record level, even as test scores and grades continued to rise. The
University became a more diverse institution as students from around the country
were drawn to Vanderbilt, and in 1952 the University opened its doors to
minority students before the other private universities in the South did so.
By the time of Branscomb's retirement, the number of full-time faculty had
doubled, faculty salaries had almost tripled (in current dollars) and the number
of buildings on campus had more than doubled. The University's annual budget
increased by more than 400 percent, and the endowment increased from $38 million
in 1946 to $88 million in 1963 (market value). He rebuilt the Medical School,
which had been recommended for closure but became one of the outstanding
institutions in the nation.
Between 1953 and 1962, the schools of Engineering, Divinity and Law all
acquired their own buildings and 15 new residence halls were built, more than
doubling the number of buildings that existed on the campus prior to his tenure.
In 1963, Branscomb's final year as Chancellor, "Vanderbilt for the first time
ranked in the top 20 private universities in the United States," according to
the book "Gone With the Ivy," a biography of the University written by
Distinguished Professor of History Paul Conkin.
Branscomb maintained an active interest in University affairs in the years
after his retirement. Honored with the title Chancellor Emeritus, he maintained
an office in Kirkland Hall and regularly attended University functions. He
particularly enjoyed the celebration of his 100th birthday in December of 1994
at the residence of Chancellor and Mrs. Wyatt.
Chancellor Emeritus Alexander Heard, who succeeded Branscomb as chancellor,
said, "Chancellor Branscomb was both a hard man to follow and an easy man to
follow. His enormous achievements set a standard dauntingly high for a
successor, yet he and Mrs. Branscomb were incomparably hospitable to Jean and me
from our first day at Vanderbilt, and our friendship and gratitude remained ever
after. Chancellor Branscomb brought Vanderbilt to new levels of recognition,
quality and possibility."
Branscomb is survived by three sons, Harvie Branscomb Jr., attorney in Corpus
Christi, Texas; Dr. Ben Branscomb, distinguished professor emeritus of medicine
at the University of Alabama Medical School in Birmingham, Ala.; and Lewis M.
Branscomb, emeritus professor of public policy and corporate management at
Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. and member of the Vanderbilt Board of
Trust. He is also survived by his brother Lewis C. Branscomb, emeritus professor
at Ohio State University; two sisters, Dr. Louise Branscomb and Mrs. Charles L.
Dill, both of Birmingham, Ala.; nine grandchildren and nine
A memorial service will be held Monday, July 27 at Vanderbilt University's
Benton Chapel at 4 p.m. Visitation will be held at Tillett Lounge in the
Divinity School from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the Branscomb family
has asked that memorial donations be made to Vanderbilt University.
Branscomb Collection at Vanderbuilt University
Contributed by Penny Leggett
This collection of pre-Columbian Nasca pottery was assembled by Chancellor and Mrs. Harvie Branscomb. It is displayed in
Garland Hall in recognition of his deep interest in Latin American culture and scholarship and Vanderbilt University's
commitment to excellence in this field of study. The exhibit is made possible by a loan from his three sons, Harvie
Branscomb Jr., Ben V. Branscomb, and Lewis M. Branscomb.
Nasca culture thrived on the south coast of present-day Peru for several hundred years, from 200 BC to AD 600. This is a
harsh desert region where rivers often run dry, and life requires intimate knowledge of underground water sources and of
hardy plants and animals native to the region. The Nasca developed complex strategies, pragmatic and religious, to
understand and thrive in the world around them. We can only glimpse the content and meaning of Nasca myth and ritual in
archaeological ruins and on artistic media such as decorated pottery.
Intimate ties and concerns with the environment are reflected in highly developed artistic expressions. Perhaps best known
for creating breathtaking lines and geoglyphs, the Nasca also developed some of the most elaborate ceramic techniques in the
pre-Columbian Americas. Their slip-painted vessels displayed up to thirteen colors, and were fired in such a manner that
designs would be permanent. Iconographic style changed over time, beginning with relatively naturalistic images during the
Early Nasca, and ending with abstract, often highly complex images in Late Nasca.
Vessels include jars with bridged spouts, which served as bottles, and a variety of bowls and cups for ceremonial drinking
and feasting. Nasca pottery depicts images ranging from mythical themes such as the Killer Whale, to human figures like the
standing warrior, to naturalistic images that include hummingbirds, mice, spiders, and cactus. Vessels depict figures
inhabiting the natural, supernatural, and social worlds, all of which were ultimately inter-related in Nasca culture. Unlike
many pre-Columbian societies, elegant vessels like those in this collection were not restricted to high-status priests or
leaders. Rather they were available to nearly everyone.
Harvie Branscomb to be in Atlanta Army YMCA
Contributed by Penny Leggett
Contributed by Eugenia Hobday
by Alan LeQuire
This bronze statue by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire honors Margaret Vaughan Branscomb,
wife of Harvie Branscomb, Chancellor of Vanderbilt from 1946 to 1963. Mrs. Branscomb was responsible for the planting of the Southern
Magnolias that now line the West End Avenue and Twenty-first Avenue South edges of campus. This artwork was unveiled in 1985.
The Vanderbilt garden club - Jean and Alexander Heard Library ...
VANDERBILT GARDEN CLUB RECORDS MSS # 473
Historical Note - A brief history of the Vanderbilt Garden
Many of the magnolia trees that encircle the campus were grown from seed propagated and planted under the direction of Jack
Lynn who worked for 27 years for the Building and Grounds Department. It was Margaret Branscomb (1896-1992), a long time
VGC member and wife of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb, who put forward this idea of the circle of magnolias during her time as
President of the VGC in 1954. Other trees were grown in nurseries and were gifts from individuals. These magnolias, which
were planted in the late 1950's, have reached maturity and stand as one of the most significant accomplishments of the
Vanderbilt Garden Club and certainly as Margaret Branscomb's and Jack Lynn's enduring gift to Vanderbilt University.
Contributed by Penny Leggett