Every time she and her sister played school as children, Nelvia was always the teacher.
And there must have been some gift even her parents recognized in her because they encouraged her to one day pursue teaching as a vocation. Today, Dr. Nelvia Brady, professor of business and former director of ethnic diversity, is looking back on a lifelong career in education as she prepares to retire from Trinity.
“I knew I was called from the time I was a little girl,” she said, although ‘calling’ for Brady was more defined by Proverbs 3:5-6 than by an understanding of the term.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Those paths have included working as a school counselor; assistant, then associate superintendent for Chicago Public Schools; executive director of the Coleman Fund for Children and Youth; the first African American and only female chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago; and senior vice president of an executive recruiting firm while serving as a visiting professor at Chicago State and the Art Institute of Chicago.
“When I look back, I see patterns in the work I did that I didn’t necessarily set out to do but were directed by God,” said Brady.
One such recurring theme in her work: diversity. As one of 300 minority undergrads out of the 30,000 students attending the University of Illinois in the late 1960s, Brady became active in the interests of students of color. Working in the area of diversity continued into Brady’s professional life, including work on the Chicago Public Schools for Student Desegregation Project in 1980 and later as director of ethnic diversity at Trinity.
In her business communication classes, she integrates discussions about diversity, sharing data about demographics in the context of the Bible’s view of the “demographics” of the great multitude in Revelation. The data shows an increasing number of women and minorities entering the workforce, Brady said. “I teach my students that this is the world they will work in and that they have to be able to communicate within a global context to co-workers, clients, and customers.”
According to Brady, education and diversity have revealed themselves to her throughout her life. “This has been an interesting, painful, and gratifying path, and by being a participant, I feel my presence has made it better,” said Brady. “All my professions have helped develop the attributes you want in a good teacher. A good manager, researcher, colleague, and leader.”
Although plans for retirement include a move for her and her husband Jack to Tennessee, she refers again to that verse in Proverbs, and the fact that God may direct her onto a new path there. “I am still having to trust,” she said.