The Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership—An institute that honors its founders in more than name
A Reflection of Our Founders
Lipscomb University's Institute for Civic Leadership not only bears the name of Nelson and Sue Andrews, but it's crafted to honor their likeness. The Institute's dynamic character, creativity, collaborative nature and humble approach to developing civic leaders mirror the character of its founding couple.
Nelson Andrews was a man of remarkably varied passions. From founding Brookside Properties, Inc., a real estate business that serves 14 states to picking a guitar in a hillbilly band, pioneering numerous Nashville civic organizations to performing atop a unicycle, raising resources for countless causes to keeping bees. In truth, Nelson's ability to bring together and find common ground for leaders of diverse backgrounds and interests is reflected in the diverse interests that filled his life.
Those who knew Nelson were often unaware of the breadth of his interest and influence, because his approach to leading and life were touched with uncommon humility.
He was often heard to say, "Magnanimous people don't think less of themselves. They just think of themselves less."
He liked quotes like that simple, direct and memorable thoughts that informed and inspired leaders. As part of Nelson's lifelong pursuit to determine what makes up a leader, he collected quotes on the subject in a notebook. Beginning with his mother's sayings and stretching from the Founding Fathers to Kermit the Frog, Nelson drew from a variety of creative leadership sources just as he looked to inspire leadership in a wide variety of people.
The breadth of Nelson's interests may be a product of being born into a military family constantly on the move. He was born on March 7, 1927, in Washington, DC, the son of a career Army officer stationed in various places during World War II. Nelson's uncle was Lieutenant General Frank Maxwell Andrews, a famed aviation pioneer celebrated on the cover of Time and for whom Andrews Air Force Base is named.
Eventually the Andrews family settled in Nashville during Nelson's high-school years. After graduation from Montgomery Bell Academy, he went on to the U.S. Military Academy, where he played for two years on West Point's undefeated, national champion football team. After the Academy, Nelson attended Vanderbilt University. There he met and married Sue Adams and the two made Nashville their home. It was the beginning of a lifetime of service and investment in a community and its future leaders.
For 60 years, Sue served behind the scenes to a quintessential behind-the-scenes leader as friend, business partner and helicopter-flying wife. Sue's leadership led to her participation on the national board of the National Federation of Independent Business for 16 years. Their lifetime partnership and commitment to collaborative leadership is appropriately honored in the Institute that proudly bears both their names.
Andrews' list of professional accomplishments, board appointments, philanthropic commitments and founding initiatives is long and varied, but its overall themes and the direction his interests took speak to his love of reaching out and developing others. His deep desire to improve the life of his community by growing its leadership led to the founding of Leadership Nashville. His work to overcome the barriers of racial division that often hamper true community-wide collaboration gave birth to the Davidson Group. His regard for vision and its importance to accomplishing projects of significance led to the citywide visioning process known as The Agenda for Nashville's Future. The need he saw for education's funding to serve the children and intellectual foundation of a community resulted in his involvement in both government and non-profit arenas as chairman of the Tennessee Board of Education and then as a founding member of the Nashville Alliance for Public Education and the Early Childhood Educational Scholarship Initiative.
Those are just a few of the many endeavors Nelson initiated or participated in for the betterment of the community. The list pioneered by Andrews' also includes: The Better Business Bureau of Nashville/Middle Tennessee, Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University, and Canby Robinson Society. Add to this the many organizations that benefited from his board involvement and leadership: The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, YMCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Country Music Foundation, Character Counts, Stand for Children and Habitat for Humanity.
Surveying the breadth of this list it's easy to see why it was often observed that Nelson Andrews was everywhere. Nelson maintained that "showing up" was an important trait of leadership and his life embodied his belief. He also spent much of his time reaching out to bring others together. His strength was building consensus and engendering collaboration.
Nelson worked tirelessly, always behind the scenes, encouraging others to lead. His encouragement was always welcome because of the goodwill with which he approached every issue and the enthusiasm with which he met life. When people asked Nelson how he stayed happy, his reply was simply "It costs no more." He frequently concluded a conversation with the upbeat note "Be of good cheer." He was a perpetual kid, always fun loving and playful.
Given the dimensions of Nelson Andrews' character and accomplishments and his creative nature, the Institute honored to share his name will be unique in the nation as it strives to turn Nelson's life work into a lasting and living legacy.
Lipscomb University is Honored to Perpetuate an Unparalleled Legacy
Nelson Andrews was a friend, a mentor, and a humble hero who immeasurably blessed all who call Nashville home. I first met Nelson Andrews in 2005 after moving to Nashville to lead Lipscomb University. At our first lunch he advised:
"Engage in the life of Nashville, its people and its institutions. Serve others, make the city a better place and the University will do just fine!"
Over the next four years of lunches with him in Green Hills, meetings in my office, and informal conversations at community events, I came to understand that his instruction to a new college president was simply a reflection of the way he lived and the contributions he had already made.
Nelson Andrews loved Nashville and believed that if its institutions were strong, our city would be strong. He was completely engaged, but unassuming in his contributions. His innovative thinking brought us Leadership Nashville, developing generations of community leaders who benefited from his wise counsel. With the Davidson Group, he created a framework for intentional one-on-one relationships in support of racial harmony. For years, his vision and constant encouragement led to the next "big idea" for improving Nashville life through The Agenda for Nashville’s Future. The Alliance for Public Education reflected his commitment to find critical funding beyond the budget for public schools. He was dedicated to the young people of Nashville through his work with the YMCA. I was humbled to watch him work in these organizations.
Nelson Andrews was the model of a successful civic leader, with Sue at his side as partner and friend. He had a profound humility, a lack of interest in recognition, and a strong sense that community service should be everyone’s work. Nashville was his laboratory and the Nashville Model of civic leadership was the result. For four years he and I talked, alone and with other Lipscomb colleagues, about collaborative civic leadership, about Lipscomb’s commitment to community engagement, and about the critical need for leadership education and training. The Sue and Nelson Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership is the result of those conversations. We invite you to learn more about the academic program and community outreach of the Institute, dedicated to educating and inspiring others to follow the Andrews example of collaborative civic leadership.
L. Randolph Lowry