Beth Fortune, a former gubernatorial press secretary and political reporter, has been named Vanderbilt University’s vice chancellor for public affairs, a position she has held on an interim basis for the past six months, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced Wednesday.
Fortune joined Vanderbilt in September 2000 as associate vice chancellor for public affairs after serving as press secretary to former Gov. Don Sundquist for more than six years.
“Beth Fortune possesses an in-depth, comprehensive knowledge of Vanderbilt, as well as a thorough understanding of its culture, history and mission. She is a highly respected and vastly experienced professional in the fields of public affairs, politics and the media, as well as a well-regarded and widely recognized leader in higher education and in our local community,” Zeppos said. “There were many outstanding candidates for this position, but with Beth’s depth of experience combined with her passion for Vanderbilt, she was the clear choice.”
As vice chancellor for public affairs, she leads the university’s comprehensive communications, government and community initiatives and serves as the university’s chief spokesperson.
Fortune succeeds Michael Schoenfeld, who became Duke University’s vice president for public affairs and government relations July 1. Her appointment is pending approval by the Board of Trust.
As associate vice chancellor Fortune served as the principal deputy to the vice chancellor for public affairs and oversaw the university’s news and communications functions, including the News Service, Creative Services, Science and Research Communications and The Vanderbilt View monthly publication.
“Vanderbilt is an engaging, dynamic institution that has many important constituencies, and it’s a privilege to serve in a role that reaches out to so many of them,” Fortune said. “I appreciate this incredible opportunity and look forward to continuing to work with all the members of the Vanderbilt community.”
From 1995 to 2000 Fortune was a member of the Governor’s Cabinet and the first female gubernatorial press secretary in Tennessee history. She also served as press secretary for Sundquist’s successful 1994 run for governor.
Three times named by Business Nashville and in 2003 by The Tennessean as one of the city’s top young leaders, Fortune also has been recognized by the Nashville Scene as among the most effective and respected public affairs professionals in the city. She was the recipient of the Spirit of Leadership award in 2006 from CABLE, a networking organization.
From 1985 to 1992, Fortune was a political reporter for the Nashville Banner, the city’s former daily evening newspaper. She won an Exceptional Merit Media Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus for a series on women in Tennessee politics.
She also worked as a principal in The Fulton Group, a former Nashville lobbying and public affairs firm, and as manager of public affairs for the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority.
Fortune was one of former Mayor Bill Purcell’s first appointments to the Metropolitan Educational Access Corporation and served as chair from 2004 to 2007. She also serves on the boards of Women in Numbers (WIN), Urban League of Middle Tennessee, Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership, Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Belcourt Theatre and as president of Renewal House. She is past president of the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus, past president of WIN, a former member of the CABLE board of directors and member of the Leadership Nashville Alumni Association.
In 2002, she was one of 16 women worldwide selected by the International Women’s Forum to participate in its prestigious yearlong fellowship on executive leadership that included programs at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge in England.
A 1985 graduate of Anderson University, Fortune earned a master of arts in journalism and public affairs from American University in 1990.
Media Contact: Elizabeth Latt, (615) 322-NEWS
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,750 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.