As is our annual tradition, the Post team presents In Charge, a compendium of Middle Tennessee’s top business, political and civic leaders. The 450-plus women and men on our list — our fifth annual — make a positive impact not just on their individual sectors, but on the city in general. These folks are the best of the best — and always “in charge.”
1. Chris Barbic — Superintendent, Achievement School District: State’s lead proponent of the emerging “portfolio” approach to school system leadership, in which an administration’s chief task is to select each school’s management. ASD has 17 schools this year and is tasked with transforming the low-performing institutions into some of the best in the state.
2. Dan Boone — President, Trevecca Nazarene University: Understated academician who has the Church of Nazarene-affiliated Trevecca undertaking some bold initiatives. In 2012, the school launched an online doctorate degree in education and a master’s degree for independent schools education. Last year, TNU announced it hopes to develop a $13 million residential project called Walden Woods.
3. Bill DeLoache — Trustee, Joe C. Davis Foundation: Leads Nashville-based foundation that assisted in the startup of the Tennessee Charter School Incubator. Endorsed pro-charter school board candidate Elissa Kim, who ousted incumbent board chair Gracie Porter in the 2012 election.
4. Shani Jackson Dowell — Executive Director, Teach for America Nashville: Leads the local chapter of the national organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. THEC found in 2013 that TFA was one of the most effective teacher-preparation programs in the state.
5. Bob Fisher — President, Belmont University: The leader of a university that finished a residence hall and law school building in 2012 and will complete its massive Wedgewood Academic Center this fall. The school announced in late 2013 it would expand its Bridges to Belmont scholarship program with Metro Schools.
6. Beth Fortune — Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, Vanderbilt University: Oversees VU’s communications, government and community initiatives and serves as its chief spokesperson. Arrived at Vanderbilt in 2000 after serving as press secretary to former Gov. Don Sundquist. Had difficult task of spearheading communications efforts involving story about alleged sexual assault and Commodore football team members.
7. Glenda Baskin Glover — President, Tennessee State University: The TSU alumna made a splash at the first faculty meeting of her tenure by donating $50,000 to an endowed scholarship. A gracious and straight-shooting leader who has provided TSU with much-needed stability after it functioned for two years with an interim president.
8. Dolores Gresham — Chairwoman, Senate Education Committee: A key powerbroker on Capitol Hill who led the charge to examine Common Core and text book selection, two issues driving 2014 legislative session. Also is carrying a key bill that would let the state approve locally rejected charter schools.
9. Kevin Huffman — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education: Drove push to link teacher licensure to performance and unhook advanced degrees to mandatory higher teacher pay scales. Oversaw largest NAEP test score gains in the nation this year. Statewide, students’ TCAP test scores improved in 22 of 24 categories in 2013.
10. Randy Lowry — President, Lipscomb University: Has spearheaded Lipscomb 2010, a $54 million plan that resulted in LU College of Pharmacy (creating the first Lipscomb doctorate degree), 38 new undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs; and six new institutes (in conflict management; sustainable practice; law, justice and society; Christian spirituality; corporate governance and integrity; and civic leadership).
11. Sidney McPhee — President, Middle Tennessee State University: Orchestrated the school’s intercollegiate athletics move from Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, keeping Blue Raiders relevant amid conference realignment. Was instrumental in obtaining funds for construction of a new $125 million science building.
12. Ellen Meyer — President, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film: Runs 400-student, four-year college offering degree programs in film, fine arts, graphic design, interior design and photography — a vibrant community of student and faculty artists, designers and filmmakers that feeds the rise of Nashville’s creative class.
13. Will Pinkston — Budget Committee Chairman, Metro Nashville Public Schools Board: Arguably, the most powerful school board member. Motivated school board members to question the fiscal effect charter schools have on district’s bottom line. Convinced board to limit 2014 charter school considerations to those locating in parts of South Nashville or turning around low-performing schools.
14. Jesse Register — Superintendent, Metro Nashville Public Schools: Reorganized central office to give more autonomy to school principals and reduce the number of people who report to him as part of larger reform effort to decentralize operations at the 82,000-student district. His next focus is on pre-K.
15. George Van Allen — President, Nashville State Community College: Has overseen continued expansion of NSCC, including moving into abandoned retail space at Hickory Hollow Mall. New transfer pathways programs to four-year colleges have made NSCC a key player in local higher education.
16. H. James Williams — President, Fisk University: Started at the top job at Fisk in February 2013. Former Grand Valley State University business school dean oversaw the effort to move Fisk from accreditation probation (accreditation was achieved last December) by improving its finances.
17. Jamie Woodson — President and CEO, State Collaborative on Reforming Education: Former chairman of the Senate Education Committee and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore led state’s efforts to identify and support effective teaching, overhaul K-12 education funding formula, raise academic standards, improve low-performing schools, and expand public charter schools in Tennessee. The Bill Frist-founded SCORE seeks to ensure Tennessee students are prepared for college or workforce.
18. Nick Zeppos — President, Vanderbilt University: Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor. Former faculty member, provost and vice chancellor who joined VU in 1987. Has helped lead planning for The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and College Halls at Kissam, the latest phase of university’s living-learning residential college system.