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2021 Commencement Information
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Dr. David P. Nelson

The 24th President of Catawba College.

DPNelson.jpg

“Catawba is a vibrant learning community that prepares students for meaningful life and work,” says Dr. Nelson. “While the next few years may look different than any of us would have imagined just a matter of weeks ago, I am confident that the extraordinary people at Catawba along with the Salisbury/Rowan community will meet the extraordinary challenges ahead of us with energy, creativity, and resolve. I am eager to join in that work.”

Dr. David P. Nelson
Catawba's 24th President

Message to Catawba Community
from President-Elect, Dr. David P. Nelson
CatawbaSeal-TRANSPARENT-WHITE.pngIt is with great excitement that we introduce you to Catawba College's 24th president, Dr. David P. Nelson.

Dr. David P. Nelson, formerly the president of Boston's Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), is the 24th President of Catawba College. Dr. Nelson replaced Brien Lewis, who earlier this year was selected as President of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.

"On behalf of the trustees, Catawba College welcomes Dr. Nelson to our College," said William (Bill) M. Graham '83, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "David brings strong academic experience and executive leadership to the Catawba presidency, and we look forward to working with him as the College focuses on our future through sustainable growth and engaging curricular and co-curricular experiences."

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A Few Words from Dr. Nelson's Colleagues

moeser.jpg"I am very happy for Catawba College that it has named David Nelson as its new president. I first saw David as a future college or university president when he and I worked together at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, he as Provost and I as Interim Chancellor. David understands at his core the purpose of a liberal arts college. He is a humanist with degrees in music and theology. He will insist on good teaching and will defend academic freedom. The faculty will recognize him as one of their own. Friends of the college and alumni will love him, and he will have great success in raising funds. David Nelson will be a great president for Catawba College."

James Moeser
Chancellor Emeritus, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

bierman.jpg"Catawba College will greatly benefit from David's extraordinary intellect, longstanding commitment to student success, and strategic leadership experience at complex public institutions. His fundraising chops and entrepreneurial vision will catalyze growth and transformation across the campus and alumni community. I’m absolutely thrilled to see him return home to North Carolina."

Lindsay Bierman
CEO, UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina
Former Chancellor, UNC School of the Arts

jansaragoni.jpg"David Nelson is a thoughtful leader and strategic thinker. His enthusiasm for engaging and creating collaborations within the broader college community, on campus and throughout our alumni network, has resulted in a resurgence of pride in the MassArt mission. And as a first-generation college student, David is a fierce advocate for building an accessible, welcoming campus community so that all students, no matter what their background, can thrive."
Janice M. Saragoni
Chair, Board of Trustees, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

dixonkinser.jpg"Catawba College has selected a remarkable leader in David Nelson, but what may not be apparent is how much this choice will benefit the whole community. When David and Kimberly were in Winston-Salem, they applied their remarkable gifts and talents toward the thriving of the entire city. Both of them had imagination and vision for what our community could be, and would actually work to make that vision a reality. With David and Kimberly coming to town, Catawba College wins, and so does Salisbury.” 

The Rev. D. Dixon Kinser 
Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem, NC

A Few Words from Your Catawba Colleagues

Hear from members of the Presidential Search Committee about the selection of Dr. David P. Nelson as Catawba's next president.

Forrest Anderson, Associate Provost

Forrest Anderson

Associate Provost


“David Nelson comes to Catawba College with a clear perspective on the institution we are and the institution we strive to become. His own story—a first-generation college student, who attended a small private college on an arts scholarship, went on to graduate school to study theology, and wound up a high-level executive—matches the story of many of our alumni and the ambitions of many of our current students. His story speaks to the possibility of a liberal arts education blended with career preparation, his story speaks to the future of Catawba and our impact on our students.”

Meg Kluttz Dees, Vice President for Development

Meg Kluttz Dees

Vice President for Development


“I am thrilled with Catawba College’s decision to name Dr. David P. Nelson our 24th President.  Dr. Nelson is a demonstrated leader with a strong record of success at other higher education institutions.  As a trained conductor, he knows how to lead and direct and will be a true asset to Catawba College.  Dr. Nelson’s unique background which includes not only being a conductor, but a theologian, a professor, a provost and a College President gives him a distinct experience to lead Catawba College on a new path while honoring our history.  Dr. Nelson and his wife Kimberly will be great leaders for Catawba College and wonderful additions to our local community.” 

Dan Bross, Board of Trustees

Dan Bross '71

Board of Trustees


“David Nelson is a visionary and transformational leader. His broad range of experiences and commitment to charting a bold, inclusive and distinctive future for Catawba College will help us raise our profile and inspire our students through strong academic programs developed in partnership with the college’s high caliber faculty.  The vitality of Catawba College lies in its tradition, history, values and commitment to the individual and David’s background in the arts provides him with the experience and skills to bring the rich voices across the college community together to herald a clear vision for Catawba’s future.“

Maria Vandergriff-Avery

Maria Vandergriff-Avery

Professor of Sociology 


Dr. Nelson is an inspirational leader who is committed to Catawba College’s mission of “providing students an education rich in personal attention that blends the knowledge and competencies of liberal studies with career preparation”.  His vast experience with developing, articulating, and implementing a vision will greatly benefit our institution.  I look forward to working with Dr. Nelson and am excited about Catawba’s future."

Drew H. Davis, Catawba College

Drew H. Davis

Vice-President, General Counsel, and Director of Human Resources  Title IX Coordinator


"It was obvious from my first reading of President Nelson’s application materials that his diverse and collective experiences as a President, a Provost, and a faculty member, and in the arts and religion, would connect with a large part of the Catawba community. Upon meeting President Nelson, his leadership attributes and vision shone brightly. He is an intentional listener and a clear servant leader. President Nelson will make tough decisions after gathering input from Catawba stakeholders, and he will appeal to a new generation of Catawba students. There is no doubt in my mind President Nelson is absolutely the right person at the right time for Catawba."

Barbara L. Marshall '72, Board of Trustees

Barbara L. Marshall '72

Board of Trustees


“David Nelson’s experience as a college president, his leadership style and strategic understanding of liberal arts colleges like Catawba will provide the necessary skills needed to continue to advance the college.  He has a strong commitment to the community in which he lives both on campus and off campus.  I think he is going be a tremendous asset to Catawba and Salisbury. I look forward to working with him.”

A Warm Welcome from Catawba

Take a moment to send a welcome note or warm wishes to our new President, to be shared with the community below:

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Dr. Nelson - Welcome! We are excited for you to join the Catawba family! I know you will find your personal interactions and engagement at Catawba as personally and professionally rewarding as do I. Congratulations on this selection and appointment. I look forward to working with you.
Drew Davis

Dr. Nelson, Welcome to the Catawba family. I look forward to working with you as you lead the college in advancing our mission.
Barbara Marshall

President Nelson brings experience, integrity, and leadership to Catawba College. With an unending commitment to higher education accompanied with a deep passion for the liberal arts, Dr. Nelson embodies the mission and values of Catawba College. We are blessed to have him as our 24th President. 
Dean Earl Givens, Jr.

Welcome to Catawba College! I am looking forward to seeing you in Salisbury.
Forrest Anderson

Dr. Nelson, congratulations! You are the perfect hire for Catawba College and thanks for accepting. You have the vision, the experience, the work ethic, and the commitment to community and constituencies which are all so important. I am working part-time as Advisor for Community Relations for North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities and, along with President Dr. Hope Williams and staff, look forward to working with you for many years.
Phil Kirk, '67

Dr. Nelson: Very excited to read of your presidency. Congratulations. I thank the Catawba education for much of my success in both graduate schools and my chosen profession: college educator in theatre! All the best to you. Be safe and well!
- Susan Vick '67; MFA, SMU '69; Ph.D., U of Illinois Urbana '79; Professor Emerita, WPI, Worcester MA

Greetings from the Environment and Sustainability Department, Dr. Nelson! I am excited to join in on your welcome to Catawba. Our ENV students are surely looking forward to making progress on institutional sustainability efforts when we re-engage with the campus. And, under your leadership, I am confident that our diverse student body will be able to continue bridge-building with the Salisbury community and advancing the socio-ecological justice initiatives that the College mission so clearly supports. We are glad to have you with us!
Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid, Associate Professor, Environmental Policy and Advocacy; Director of Student Engagement, Center for the Environment

Hello, I just wanted to welcome you to Catawba College! This school is very dear to my heart and I know it will be to you too. Best wishes!

A warm welcome to Catawba College President David Nelson and family. We are pleased and delighted that you are a part of the Catawba College Families. Your national and international excellent academia qualifications and experience brings a wealth of knowledge to the college and community.
- The Bailey Family, Parents

David, We are all so thrilled to have you become Catawba's 24th President. We will soar to new heights, I have no doubt. We look forward to seeing you in Salisbury July 1, and I look forward to meeting your wife as well. I'm here in Salisbury, so anything I can do to help with your transition, please give me a shout. We are just thrilled!!! Go Catawba!!
Deborah Messinger '74

Welcome to Catawba College and Salisbury, NC! We look forward to working with you and having you be a part of our Catawba family!
- Meg Dees

David Nelson, I am extremely excited for you to join the Catawba family.
Randy Crumpler

On behalf of myself and the faculty from the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, we would like to welcome Dr. Nelson to Catawba with open arms. Dr. Nelson's leadership style and values are consistent with ours and that of Catawba College's mission. We are looking forward to growing and improving for the greater good under his guidance. I'm most looking forward to his deliberate and organized management style that will undoubtedly help us navigate a forward path to success. 
Jim Hand Dean, Health Sciences and Human Performance

Welcome to Catawba College! You will love it here! 
Dr. Sheila Brownlow, Psychology Chair and Director of the First Year Experience

David, I am excited to have you and Kimberly join the Catawba Family. You will be a wonderful addition to our community.
Dick Seiwell

As a member of the Presidential Search committee, I am so pleased that the process we went through produced such fantastic results in finding the next leader for Catawba College! I am very excited about the future of Catawba with Dr. Nelson at the helm, and look forward to working with him!
Sally Whitney

Dr. Nelson, WELCOME to Catawba! I look forward to meeting you and Kimberly and seeing all the wonderful places we will go over the coming years under your leadership. You seem like a kindred spirit and already a part of the Catawba family. We welcome you with open arms and look forward to having you on campus!
- Maegen G. Worley, Catawba College Web Designer/Developer

Welcome to our "fair Catawba," Dr. Nelson! When I came to Catawba 34 years ago to join the faculty, I immediately felt at home and I know you will, too. Catawba will steal your heart like it did mine. I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the family!
- Cheryl Peevy, Faculty Emerita, Modern Foreign Languages

Dr. Nelson - Welcome to our Family! Your work seems to speak for itself. We are thrilled about this journey we are about to embark on with you as our leader. Thank you for gracefully accepting the challenge to drive Catawba into a greater future! Our entire family is energetically rooting for you! Please know that we are praying for you and your family as you make this transition to verdant Southlands!
David L. Stevenson, Jr. '18, Assistant Director of Admissions

Thank you for the community work you did at MassArt. Kymberly, James, and Dan are off and running. I wish you the best in your new job.
- Dan Szabo, Director of Academic Advising, Mass. College of Art

Dear David, You were invoked today by me and others of your former colleagues, who clearly miss you and wish you well. BE well, Dahveed N.
- David Nolta

On behalf on the entire Division of the College Experience, we would like to extend our warmest welcome to Dr. Nelson and his wife Kimberly, We look forward to your leadership and vision in elevating Catawba College to new heights for both prospective and current students.
-Dr. Jared R. Tice

Dr. Nelson, the College Honors Program enthusiastically welcomes you to Catawba! We are excited that you will serve as the College's 24th president. We look forward to sharing all of the exciting things we do to enhance the educational experiences of our students with you and working with you to continue this tradition.
- Dr. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, Professor of Sociology & Director of the College Honors Program

David, Congratulations and welcome! You will find this wonderful community of learners invigorating, encouraging, and supportive. Don't hesitate to call upon me if I can ever be of assistance in helping you and Catawba thrive and reach new heights. Warmest wishes to you, Kimberly, and your family.
Brien Lewis

Especially today we are privileged to have met you and Kimberly. The manner in which you carry yourself and engage with others has always seemed a real fit for our Catawba College personality. As recent events have presented themselves it is has become more clear that a hand was on our shoulder as we navigated recent months with you. Our woven fabric of people and history will be there with you to ensure our 169 year history thrives much, much longer. Lead us. We want it. 
- Bob and Susan Arnold '71

David - It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you during the search process and I am absolutely thrilled that you and Kimberly will be joining the Catawba family. While my husband and I live in New York and Lenox, MA and therefore won't have the opportunity to spend as much time with you as other Trustees, I am looking forward to seeing you very soon and to meeting Kimberly. Please know I am here to help and support you in every way possible. Welcome to Catawba!
Dan Bross

Welcome Dr. Nelson, As an alum, we are so proud to have you as our next President. Catawba is a remarkable institution with warm people and phenomenal students. Congratulations on your appointment!
Dr. James S. Bridgeforth

Congratulations David. I regret we did not have more time together since my arrival in Boston. I pray God's blessing upon you and your family as you embark upon this next journey. Let's stay in touch. I know there is much I can learn from you.
- Dr. Lepaine Sharp-McHenry, Dean and Professor Simmons University

Congratulations David!!!
Carolyn Edwards

Dr. Nelson, Congratulations upon your selection as President at Catawba. My name is Bill Hall '66. Rosemary, my wife, and I look forward to meeting you and your family welcoming y'all to Catawba and to the Salisbury-Rowan community. Hope to see you in the coming weeks. Glad to have you on board.
- Bill and Rosemary Hall

Welcome!!! We are all so excited to meet you and work with you! I am new to the Catawba community as well, and I looking forward to seeing Catawba grow and reach new heights under your leadership.
- Caitie Connor, Admissions Counselor, Shuford School of Performing Arts

President Nelson, Welcome to Catawba. Many of us alumni long for our great alma mater to become the seven best letters in the South and are ready to help. Congratulations!
- Glen D. Lloyd '06