Our Team


Dr. John Lowry, Executive Director John Lowry

Dr. John Lowry is the Executive Director for Spark. He is also the Vice President for Development & External Affairs at Lipscomb University. He earned his bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University, his juris doctorate degree from Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law. He is a recognized authority on negotiation through his experience as a lawyer, business consultant, negotiation coach and university administrator. Dr. Lowry is also a founding board member of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce and is a three-time Williamson County Impact Award winner presented by the Nashville Business Journal. Spark was created from his vision of what the future of higher education could be paired with the ability to serve the surrounding business community. 

Laurie Gunnells, Managing Director

Laurie brings ten years of valuable marketing experience. She spent six years with Robins & Morton in Brentwood, TN as the marketing coordinator responsible for development, organization and production of client pursuit and marketing materials. Before that Laurie spent four years as the Trade Show Marketing Manager at Healthcare Management Systems in Nashville, TN. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Laurie attended Madison Academy and later received her Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University. One interesting fact about Laurie is she has been to the ‘Holy Lands’ and strongly encourages everyone to take a swim in the Dead Sea if you ever get the chance. She says, “It’s kind of amazing.”

Dr. Josh Hayden, Director of Executive Programs

Dr. Josh Hayden was hired as Director of Executive Programs for Spark: Lipscomb’s Idea Center in June 2016. Previously, he served for six years as Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies and Executive Director of General Education at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN. Dr. Hayden earned his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University. He has worked and taught leadership at Vanderbilt University, American University, and Christopher Newport University. Hayden has coached, consulted, and trained in business and government organizations.  He currently serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board in Davidson County. He has traveled extensively working with community development and youth programs in developing countries, such as Ethiopia and India, and is a board member of the Joseph School in Haiti. Dr. Hayden’s research interests are in moral leadership, social and organizational change, and adaptive leadership. He is a member of the International Leadership Association and the Association of Leadership Educators. 


Jenny Stephenson

Jenny Stephenson, Associate Director of Administration

Jenny is a hospitable and servant-hearted event manager. Her gracious spirit and detailed-oriented nature help produce incredible learning experiences.  Jenny served many corporate clients through Lipscomb’s School of Executive Education before coming to Spark when it opened in 2012. 


Rachael Donnelly, Associate Director of Operations

A graduate of Harding University, Rachael is originally from California but has lived in the Nashville area for 18 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Harding University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Memphis. She has a background in Speech-Language Pathology and in the field of education, and brings that organizational experience to Spark. She has a love of serving people and an eye for detail. 

Steven Durham, Meeting Coordinator

Steve brings six years of experience working with Lipscomb's Event Management department as an Operations Supervisor. Using his skills and technology, Steve loves providing exceptional experiences for our clients. He is also a talented Graphic Designer. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA he received his Bachelor of Arts as a Lipscomb graduate. Steve is a avid sports fan, he still roots for the teams he grew up watching, along with local Nashville teams.


Audrey Williams, Meeting Coordinator

As a recent Lipscomb University graduate, Audrey is excited to be a part of the Spark team. She has experience with event planning and coordination, including three years with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life committee. Audrey has lived in Ohio, Illinois and Georgia, but after six years here, calls Nashville home. A fun fact about Audrey is that she loves to travel and especially visit national parks. So far, she has visited 24 and hopes to get the chance to see all of them.