Gerald Hector welcomes Dr. Charlie Nelms to It's Easy Son!
This week on IT'S EASY SON, Mr. Gerald Hector welcomes Dr. Charlie Nelms, a nationally recognized leader in higher education, a compelling storyteller, and a dedicated activist. One of eleven children born to subsistence farmers in the Arkansas Delta, Charlie experienced first-hand the pain of poverty and the sting of racism and American style apartheid. He did not merely read about “Colored Only” waiting rooms, water fountains, and restrooms; he used them. While growing up in the Delta, Charlie chopped and picked cotton from sunup to sundown. He attended school only after the crop was laid-by or harvested, for never more than five months of the year. Everything in his all-Black school was previously used by white children, except the chalk.
Charlie obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a historically Black College and University (HBCU). He earned his master’s and doctorate from Indiana University, with which he has a half century affiliation. Charlie is the first African American to be appointed chancellor of an IU campus and vice president of the University System. In 2019, IU awarded him an honorary doctorate, and he is also the recipient of its highest honors: The President’s Medal for Excellence, the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, and the Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion for Distinguished Achievement. Charlie is Vice President Emeritus at IU. He holds honorary degrees from Earlham College and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Charlie’s eminent career includes serving as chancellor at Indiana University East, the University
of Michigan-Flint, and North Carolina Central University (NCCU). During his tenure as chancellor of NCCU, U.S. News & World Report ranked it as one of the best public HBCUs in the nation for three consecutive years. Charlie has received numerous national accolades for his higher education leadership, including prestigious fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the American Council on Education. In addition, he has been widely recognized for tackling issues beyond academia in our communities-at-large. In 2012, President Obama honored him with the MLK Drum Major for Service Award for helping to address the most pressing needs in our nation.
Charlie is a highly sought guest speaker, panelist, and commentator at various events, radio programs and podcasts. For five years, he was a Huffington Post blogger, where he wrote wide-ranging pieces, from the political to the personal. Charlie is the author of Having My Say: Reflections of a Black Baby Boomer and Start Where You Find Yourself. His memoir, From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie (IU Press, 2019) was featured during IU’s bicentennial celebrations in 2020. All book royalties are donated to UNCF and TMCF for HBCU scholarships.
Charlie and his spouse, Jeanetta Sherrod, are philanthropists who have established scholarship endowments at UAPB, University of Michigan Flint, IU East, and NCCU. Each year, 30-40 students are awarded Nelms Scholarships. Charlie and Jeanetta are the proud parents of one child, Rashad, a career employee with the United Nations World Food Program. In retirement, Charlie serves as President In-Residence with the United Negro College Fund, and as Senior Consultant with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Washington, DC.