Vanderbilt University was named in honor of shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who provided the school its initial $1 million endowment despite having never been to the South. Vanderbilt hoped that his gift and the greater work of the university would help to heal the sectional wounds inflicted by the Civil War.
Today, Vanderbilt enrolls approximately 12,000 students from all 50 U.S. states and over 100 foreign countries in four undergraduateand six graduate and professional schools. Several research centers and institutes are affiliated with the university, including the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, Dyer Observatory, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the only Level I trauma center in Middle Tennessee. With the exception of the off-campus observatory and satellite medical clinics, all of the university's facilities are situated on its 330-acre (1.3 km2) campus in the heart of Nashville, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from downtown. Despite its urban surroundings, the campus itself is a national arboretum and features over 300 different species of trees and shrubs.
Vanderbilt is ranked as one of the top universities in the United States for its undergraduate teaching, research opportunities, and post-graduate employment placements. It is ranked 15th on the list of best national universities generated by U.S. News & World Report.