John Rich, driving force of Vanderbilt athletic expansion, dies

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 6:37pm

Longtime Vanderbilt supporter John Rich, who largely influenced the building of Vanderbilt Stadium in 1982, has died.

Rich died on Monday night in his Nashville home. He was 85.

Rich played for the Vanderbilt football and baseball teams from 1945-51. He joined the school’s Board of Trust in 1988. He was named trustee emeritus in 2003. He was also a member of the Dean’s Council, Blair Patrons, Own Associates and Friends of the Children's Hospital.

But the Mississippi native had a huge influence on the growth of Vanderbilt athletics.

The founder of Delta Coals Inc., he played a huge role in the construction of Vanderbilt Stadium and the expansion of the McGugin Athletic Center. In 2002, the renovated football practice fields behind McGugin were named in Rich’s honor.

He was inducted into the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2008.

“Vanderbilt University has lost a giant with the passing of our dear friend, John Rich,” athletic director David Williams said in a statement. “… Mr. Rich was an ardent booster of Commodore athletics in deed and spirit. He was extremely generous in sharing his resources and he was a most familiar face attending games at Dudley Field or Memorial Gymnasium. John was a friend and close advisor who loved and cared for the Commodores as much as anyone.

“We will greatly miss his wisdom, his friendship, his story telling and his support, but most of all we will miss him. We are all saddened by his passing but will always remember what he has meant to us.”

A visitation will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. The memorial service is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church.