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Crowders, Smiths honored for tireless service with 2019 Kopio Awards

Recognizing and celebrating those who serve others is a hallmark of the Lipscomb community. The Kopio Awards are the highest non-academic award given by Lipscomb University.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Auditorium filled with people singing and worship leader on the stage

One of the highlights of Summer Celebration each year is the presentation of the Kopio Awards.

As part of Summer Celebration festivities June 26-28, Lipscomb University honored two Nashville-area couples with its highest non-academic award — the Kopio Award — for their service. 

Michael and Ethel Crowder along with Doug and Nan Smith were recognized at evening celebration sessions during the week and presented with the Kopio Award. They were also the guests of honor at special dinners during Summer Celebration.

The Kopio Award name comes from a transliteration of a Greek word that is used to describe a person who labors to the point of utter exhaustion with the help and for the glory of God (Colossians 1:29). Lipscomb established the Kopio Awards to honor those individuals who give of themselves in this manner in service to God and the community. Lipscomb University Awarded its first Kopio Award in 2009.

Group of four individuals holding Kopio Award

Ethel and Michael Crowder

Michael and Ethel Crowder

Michael and Ethel Crowder have served at the Jackson Street Church of Christ for over 42 years. They retired from this full-time ministry position Dec. 31, 2017. Since Michael preached his first sermon at Jefferson Street, “Israelites Out of Egyptian Bondage,” at the age of 12—he has been preaching for over 55 years at congregations like McClellan, Mount View, West End in Terrell and Jackson Street. His sermons grew longer than his first 10-minute message, but they also served to impact Brothers and Sisters around the world through time spent as a missionary. In 1972 Michael spent a year as a missionary in Nigeria with 2011 Kopio recipient and lifelong mentor, David Jones. In 1974-75 Ethel and Michael spent two years in Ghana West Africa in missions. 

Both Ethel and Michael were born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. They met during youth activities between the Jefferson Street and Schrader Lane churches and will have been married this year for 46 years. Ethel is a graduate of Lipscomb University where she focused upon education and then counseling. 

Michael attributes her time at Lipscomb to shaping her to be the most important Bible student and spiritual influence in his life. She was his sounding board in sermon preparation as well the full-time mother of three children and now six grandchildren. Her hard work and sacrifice in supporting Michael in his continuing education did not go unnoticed nor unappreciated and she later became a gifted counselor in the public schools in her own right.

Michael attended Fisk University where he focused upon math and education. He taught math at Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, where he met his first mentor, Jack Evans. Michael soon returned to Nashville to teach math and also went into the penitentiary to teach math (with James Earl Ray among his students). 

In Metro Nashville Public Schools Michael was a teacher, then returned to college at Tennessee State University to pursue a master’s degree in counseling and then a doctoral degree in administration and supervision. In the MNPS he has moved from math to counseling, to assistant principal, to principal to hearing officer for discipline—a role he still plays for Metro Schools. 

Although Michael and Ethel have retired from full time ministry, they remain active at Jackson Street still and love their new preacher. Michael is on the board of directors for Churches of Christ Disaster Relief, still works for MNPS as a discipline officer and serves as the first-ever chaplain for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. 

Group of four individuals holding Kopio Award

Doug and Nan Smith

Doug and Nan Smith

Service has been a fundamental value in the Doug and Nan Smith family. Early in their marriage, the Smiths established a habit of philanthropy even when they didn’t have much money to share. That’s been fundamental to Doug and Nan’s way of life and they have instilled that priority in their family.

This came from a deep belief that their financial resources are not theirs, and that they are to be stewards of what they have. Doug and Nan believe deeply in service and that at the end of the story there’s something bigger and more powerful than them. 

Doug and Nan both know first-hand the value of Christian education as they both earned bachelor’s degrees from Abilene Christian University. Doug, who also holds a master’s degree from Duke University and Ph.D. in health services administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, pursued a career in the health care industry with Nan by his side. 

He was co-founder, Quorum Health Group; president, HCA Management Company; associate administrative director, Duke University Medical Center; and was also in leadership positions with Greeneville Hospital systems, Humana, Healthcare Management Directions Inc. and Passport Health Communications Inc. among other appointments. In addition, he was professor of health care management at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management, served as an adjunct professor in Lipscomb’s College of Business and is a former member of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees. 

Nan has a quiet ministry to many on an individual basis, a heart-to-heart dimension conducted in coffees and long talks and phone calls. She loves people deeply, believes deeply in people in a sincere way that people understand is genuine. A particular focus is a ministry of encouraging healthy bodies as the temple of God. She has studied Bible with groups in her home, and is a “collector of people” as her smile and kindness draw innumerable people to their welcoming table.

Students and Lipscomb community alike have benefited from the Smiths’ generosity. Among the initiatives supported by their philanthropy to Lipscomb are scholarships, spiritual formation programs, missions, academic programs, the arts including the Steinway Initiative, capital projects, outreach programs such as Tokens and the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference, and Lipscomb Academy among numerous others. 

Doug and Nan started a nonprofit in the mid-1900s to focus on worship renewal. After much research, discussion and prayer, the Smiths founded The ZOE Group. They provided finances for the first recordings and conference to happen, and that ministry has blessed churches and individuals around the world for more than 20 years.  

— Photos by Kristi Jones