2021 In Charge – Education

Each year, our In Charge list brings together business, political and civic leaders from all corners of the Middle Tennessee landscape. This year's list is our 12th iteration and features roughly 500 people driving change across the region. We thank our friends and colleagues at the Scene and Nfocus for their help in creating it.


Adrienne Battle — Director, Metro Nashville Public Schools: Stepped up to lead city’s more-than-86,000-student public school system after the contentious tenure of Shawn Joseph. Has more than 20 years of leadership experience within MNPS, including as one of four community superintendents. Has also served as adjunct faculty member for the University of Phoenix and Tennessee State University. 

Dan Boone — President, Trevecca Nazarene University: Understated academician who has the Church of Nazarene-affiliated TNU undertaking bold initiatives, most recently a four-story health sciences building. Has also added degree programs and expanded Trevecca’s athletic fundraising.

Randy Boyd — President, University of Tennessee: Former Radio Systems entrepreneur, special advisor on higher ed to Bill Haslam and gubernatorial candidate who was first appointed on an interim basis and then made permanent a year ago.

Christiane Buggs — Chair, Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education: Former math teacher, second-term board member and United Way of Greater Nashville manager who took over the board chair position in 2020 after the death of Anna Shepherd.

Katie Cour — President and CEO, Nashville Public Education Foundation: Oversees nonprofit centered on public education. Former executive director of talent strategy at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and leader of education consulting firm Cour Consulting.

Daniel Diermeier — Chancellor, Vanderbilt University: University of Chicago provost who began term on West End in July. Guggenheim fellow who has specialized in political science and management studies.

Bob Fisher — President, Belmont University: Former Post CEO of the Year who oversaw enrollment boom and landed big-money backing for major initiatives. Plans to step down mid-year after more than two decades on the job.

Glenda Baskin Glover — President, Tennessee State University: Has since 2013 led institution that today has about 8,000 students. Has overseen notable additions such as health sciences building that will open this summer and $75 million residential facility slated to be completed next year.

Jason Golden — Superintendent, Williamson County Schools: Appointed to top spot in top-performing district in 2019 after Mike Looney decamped for Atlanta. Began work in WCS in 2006 as staff attorney, was named COO in 2010 and deputy superintendent two years later.

Shanna Jackson — President, Nashville State Community College: Former associate president and COO of Columbia State Community College’s Williamson Campus. Push to make Nashville State the state’s largest such college includes new Madison campus scheduled to open in 2021.

Michael Licari — President, Austin Peay State University: Chosen late last year to lead fast-growing university that now has more than 11,000 students. Was previously provost and vice president of academic affairs at Indiana State University.

Randy Lowry — President, Lipscomb University: Moved here from Pepperdine in 2005 and led consistent push to add degree programs, buildings and students. Early this year announced plan to transition into chancellor role shortly before saying university met $250 million fundraising goal a year ahead of schedule.

Veronica Mallett — Senior Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, Meharry Medical College: Chief academic officer for the nation’s oldest historically Black medical school. Helped restart partnership talks with Nashville General Hospital and develop a new medical school at the Mexican border to address critical physician shortage.

Sidney McPhee — President, Middle Tennessee State University: Began working in 2017 with eight-member MTSU governing board. Has overseen numerous big projects during tenure — including $147 million science building — but failed in 2018 attempt to relocate Valparaiso Law School.

Vann Newkirk Sr. — President, Fisk University: Took over as school’s leader last summer after sudden exit of Kevin Rome and was named to role permanently in early 2021. Joined historically Black liberal arts university in 2018 as provost from Elizabeth City State University.

Penny Schwinn — Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Education: Former chief deputy commissioner of academics for the Texas Education Agency who took over state department two years ago. Has faced headwinds over plans to change school performance ratings and had to confront staff exodus.

Susan Wente — Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Vanderbilt University: Overseer of university’s academic strategic plan since 2014 who was interim chancellor after Nick Zeppos stepped away. Announced in early 2021 she will leave mid-year to become president of Wake Forest University.

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