Nelms honors those who supported his dreams in new memoir

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After over 40 years in higher education, Charlie Nelms was ready to tell his story through his new book, From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie, A Memoir. Nelms, a Professor Emeritus at the School of Education, hoped to leave behind a legacy through the book – and remember those who helped him along the way.

After over 40 years in higher education, Charlie Nelms was ready to tell his story through his new book, From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie, A Memoir.

Nelms, a Professor Emeritus at the School of Education, hoped to leave behind a legacy through the book – and remember those who helped him along the way.

“I really wanted to honor the memory and contributions of people who nurtured my dreams and really supported me,” he told Dean Lemuel Watson in a discussion about his life and journey in education.

I want to make things better for historically disenfranchised people who look like me, who may not look like me. And when you’re in a position of leadership, you have the opportunity to change the narrative and the conversation.

Charlie Nelms

Nelms called writing the book “painful … but cathartic” and said, “The more painful it was, the more I recognized I needed to keep writing. I was motivated and I still am motivated. I want to make things better for historically disenfranchised people who look like me, who may not look like me. And when you’re in a position of leadership, you have the opportunity to change the narrative and the conversation.” 

When asked about advice he had for educational leaders, Nelms pointed to his experience as a marathon runner: “The starting line is the same, the finish line is the same. The key thing is in order to have a good race, you have to be prepared and you have to be persistent. Just because you have a little setback, that’s no reason to quit. You can’t adjust the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sail.”

Dean Lemuel Watson and Charlie Nelms discuss Nelms' new book, From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie, A Memoir.