June 19, 2009

Nelson C. Andrews, civic leader and long-time champion of Vanderbilt Medical Center, dies

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Nelson C. Andrews

Nelson C. Andrews, civic leader and long-time champion of Vanderbilt Medical Center, dies

Nelson C. Andrews, widely regarded as one of Nashville’s greatest philanthropists, humanitarians and civic leaders, died June 13 of leukemia at 82.

Mr. Andrews, a 1949 Vanderbilt graduate, helped found Vanderbilt Children's Hospital nearly four decades ago and was the founder and first president of the Canby Robinson Society. He served on the Medical Center Board as well as on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust since 1979. He was elected trustee emeritus in 2003.

“Nelson Andrews helped shape Nashville into the great city it is today, and he played an instrumental role in shaping Vanderbilt into one of the greatest institutions in the world,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “I valued Nelson’s advice and counsel and always was buoyed by his optimism and can-do attitude, no matter the challenges.”

In 2007, Mr. Andrews was honored with the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award, presented by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for exceptional community service and philanthropy.

“It is rare to find a person who exerts such a profound influence on his community, on its history and maybe, most importantly, on its culture,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs. “Nelson Andrews is everything a leader should be; just, kind, wise, civil, full of good will and good humor. There may be no one more responsible for the greatness of this city than Nelson Andrews and those of us at Vanderbilt who benefit from his contribution to our academic community will be forever grateful.”

Kevin B. Churchwell, M.D., executive director and CEO of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, agreed.

“Nelson Andrews was a leader in our community and a founding spirit of our children’s hospital. We owe a debt of gratitude for the pivotal role he played in the founding of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital nearly four decades ago,” Churchwell said. “Nelson was known for taking a firm stance on issues he believed in. Through his efforts with other champions of the cause, he rallied support from the entire city for the creation of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. His great counsel and friendship will be deeply missed.”

Mr. Andrews went to various public schools around the country before his family settled in Nashville. He graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy before enrolling at Vanderbilt, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics. Mr. Andrews worked his way through college at a series of jobs that included playing guitar and banjo in a band called the Tennessee Dew Drops.

He went on to found and serve as chairman of Brookside Properties. He was passionate about leadership as reflected in his active involvement in many civic and philanthropic causes throughout his life. He also was the founding president and chairman of many boards and organizations in Nashville, including the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Leadership Nashville, the Better Business Bureau of Nashville/Middle Tennessee, the Canby Robinson Society, the Davidson County group of the Tennessee Health Care Network and the Girl Scouts Men’s Advisory Board. He was a past chairman of the Tennessee State Board of Education, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville–Davidson County Red Cross and the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education.

He was a former board member of United Way, Junior League of Nashville and the Nashville Institute for the Arts. He served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Nashville’s Action Agenda, Leadership Nashville, Montgomery Bell Academy, Country Music Foundation, the YMCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. He also chaired the Tennessee Tax Structure Study Commission.

In addition to the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award, he was honored with the Pencil Foundation’s E. Bronson Ingram Award, the Montgomery Bell Academy Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Nashville Public School System’s School Bell Award, the American Cancer Society’s John C. Tune Award, the Kiwanis Outstanding Nashvillian of the Year Award and the National Council of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Award.

Mr. Andrews is survived by his wife, Sue, whom he met at Vanderbilt, children Susan, Nelson Carter, Judith, Adam, and Frank, and 21 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.