Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was 79 years old when he decided to make the gift that founded Vanderbilt University in the spring of 1873. Commodore Vanderbilt gave $1 million to endow and build the university—and this was his only philanthropic donation. Bishop Holland N. McTyeire of Nashville, Tennessee, a cousin of Commodore Vanderbilt’s second wife, went to New York for medical treatment in early 1873 and spent time recovering in the Vanderbilt mansion. Over the course of his recovery, Bishop McTyeire became admired by Commodore Vanderbilt and obtained his support for the project of building a university in the south that would contribute to strengthening the ties that should exist between all regions of the country.

Today, Vanderbilt University is a private research university of about ...

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