Classes of 1977, 1980 & 1984
Dr. Nancy Lewis Dishner is Executive Vice President of the Niswonger Foundation in Greeneville, having served at the Foundation since 2007. She retired from East Tennessee State University after having completed a 30-year career in Tennessee public education.
Dishner began her professional career as an elementary school teacher in Unicoi County, teaching kindergarten, first and second grades. Her last position at ETSU was Vice Provost for Enrollment Services and Director of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program. She was a tenured Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, teaching principalship licensure and higher education administration graduate program courses. She spent five years as a full-time professor in ELPA. Nancy chaired over 30 doctoral dissertation committees. During her years at ETSU, she also served as Coordinator in the Office of Finance and Administration, Assistant to the University President, and Dean of Admissions.
Dishner's earliest memory of ETSU was her father bringing her to a basketball game in Brooks Gym. "I was probably only six years old, but I remember thinking that the experience was the biggest and grandest thing I could even imagine doing in my life." Little did she know how much of her life would be spent on that campus!
Her degrees are from ETSU. She completed a Bachelor in Elementary Education, summa cum laude; Master of Supervision and Administration; and Doctorate in Administration. She holds both elementary teaching and principalship certifications in Tennessee. As a doctoral student, Nancy held a fellowship in the Office of Graduate Studies and worked, part time in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
"My college years were not glamorous. I came to ETSU as a very young mother who knew I had to make a better path for myself and my son. I knew that financially and personally it was 'one shot and one shot only.' I didn't have a traditional college experience; it was classes, studying, working as a substitute teacher, maintaining a home, raising my son, and just trying to make ends meet. In retrospect, I know that my struggles are what made me so passionately work to help ETSU students have a better college experience."
She was the recipient of the East Tennessee State University Outstanding Staff Award; was selected to receive the Outstanding Freshman Advocate Award from the Freshman Year Experience Program at the University of South Carolina; and was inducted into the ETSU Clemmer College of Education Alumni Hall of Fame. She has a street named in her honor on the ETSU campus.
Dishner is a native of Unicoi County. Her parents Ralph and Edna Lewis are both graduates of ETSU. She is married to Harold W. Dishner, an ETSU graduate. Harold is a member of the ETSU Foundation and the College of Business and Technology Advisory Board. Her son Aaron Garland and daughter-in-law Kimberly Garland are both graduates of ETSU. Additionally, Kim is completing a master's degree at ETSU this spring semester. Her brother, Danny Lewis, is an ETSU graduate. Dishner and her mother hold the distinction of being the only mother and daughter to both be selected as recipients of the ETSU Outstanding Alumna Award.
She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, having served two terms as president and executive board member; a member of Phi Delta Kappa, holding the offices of secretary and vice president; and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. She enjoys professional speaking, having presented at state, national and international conferences including University College Dublin (Ireland) and the University of York (England); and serving as a consultant for well over 30 colleges and universities across the United States.
Dishner is a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), currently serving as Vice Chair. She is a member of the board of directors for the Tennessee College Access and Success Network (TCASN). She is Vice Chair of the Roan Scholars Steering Committee. Nancy served two terms on the board of directors of the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce, establishing and chairing the Partners in Education program for Johnson City and Washington County. She served on the Johnson City Public Building Authority as chair of the Public Relations Committee and as Secretary/Treasurer. She is a member of the ETSU Foundation, and the Niswonger Children's Hospital Executive Council.
"ETSU has been a pivotal force in my life. I cannot imagine the path I would have taken without the credentials I received here. My education, the education of all my immediate family, my professional career, and the friendships I hold most dearly, are all rooted in this university. Words cannot describe my gratitude and humility as I receive this award."