Frank E. Vandiver, a renowned historian who served as president of Texas A&M University from 1981-88, passed away Friday at his home at age 79. Funeral services are pending.
“The Texas A&M family is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Frank E. Vandiver, a visionary under whose leadership the university realized significant academic achievements, furthering its status as a world-class institution,” said university spokesperson Cynthia Lawson.
“During Dr. Vandiver’s tenure as president, Texas A&M joined the ranks of the nation’s largest universities, and the volume of research at the university surpassed the $100 million mark. Dr. Vandiver’s tireless efforts and dedication resulted in Texas A&M’s space-grant college designation, enhancement of the faculty, and the creation of the Faculty Senate. Dr. Vandiver truly advanced Texas A&M, setting a high standard for all of us who follow in his footsteps. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Vandiver became the 19th president of Texas A&M on Sept. 1, 1981. He also served as president of North Texas State University from 1979-81 and was acting president of Rice University from 1968-70.
A native of Austin, Vandiver held degrees in history from the University of Texas, Tulane University and Oxford University.
Vandiver was an expert on military history with a special interest in the Civil War. He taught history at several universities, among them Washington University in St. Louis, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Oxford University. He was a professor and administrator at Rice for 24 years.
At Texas A&M, the university experienced several milestones during his tenure. Texas A&M hired its first Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winners while he was president, and the university also had more faculty join the ranks of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering than at any previous time.
Texas A&M also ranked among the Top Ten nationally in the number of National Merit Scholars during Vandiver’s presidency, and the school’s research budget surpassed the $100 million mark in 1988 at $176 million. Additionally, during his presidency, Texas A&M’s endowment surpassed the $1 billion mark for the first time.
Vandiver wrote and edited more than 20 books and 100 scholarly articles. Among his books were Mighty Stonewall, Their Tattered Flags: The Epic of the Confederacy, and Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Vandiver served as president or chairman of the Southern Historical Association, the Texas Institute of Letters, the Philosophical Society of Texas, the Association of American Colleges, the White House Historical Society, the American Council on Education and numerous other organizations.
A voracious reader, Vandiver continued to teach at Texas A&M as University Distinguished Professor and President Emeritus and was holder of the John H. and Sara Lindsey Chair in Liberal Arts. He was also director of the Mosher Institute for International Policy Studies.