Davidson alumnae have created a lasting way to recognize their favorite professor’s contributions to the college and the countless ways he continues to influence their lives today. Liz Smith Brigham ’04 and Liz Redpath ’04 think of English Professor Randy Nelson as a second father and, together, have committed $50,000 to fund the Dr. Randy Nelson Summer Internship Grant.
Nelson retires this summer after 41 years as an English professor at Davidson. An Americanist with a special interest in fiction, he currently holds the Virginia Lasater Irvin Professorship.
“I graduated 14 years ago, and Dr. Nelson and I have emailed or talked on the phone every month since that time,” said Brigham. “His communication is like receiving a metaphorical hug that just envelops you with his wit and understanding. He sustains such an important place in my life.”
Soon after Brigham decided this was a meaningful way to honor Nelson’s legacy, Redpath joined in the effort.
“He has been my tether to Davidson,” she said of Nelson. “He was one of the first people who made me feel safe in my own skin. I truly feel that every person deserves to receive at least one email from Dr. Nelson in his or her life. He probably has many pen pals, but when you get an email, you feel like the only person in the world.”
Both Brigham and Redpath were initially intimidated by his reputation as a tough teacher, but after taking a course, their perspectives forever changed.
“He is peerless in the classroom, I would say,” said Redpath. “He has a contagious love for the written word, and he makes the material he teaches come alive.”
Brigham took just about every class he taught.
“I remember writing a paper for one of his classes, and it was about the death of the epistle, the death of the letter,” she said. “Ironically, that is exactly how we’ve kept in touch. He knows all the trials and tribulations of my life.”
The classmates hope their collective support encourages others who have been influenced by Professor Nelson to grow this internship fund.
“I don’t see this as just a monetary contribution,” said Brigham. “I see this as a long-term investment and a way my husband and I and Liz and her wife can represent what Dr. Nelson means to our lives.”
Brigham was a Terry Scholar at Davidson and works as a marketing and product executive in Chicago. Redpath received the Samuel H. Bell Scholarship and is now an attorney in Richmond, Virginia.
The internship fund supports Davidson students pursuing summer internships in the visual, literary and performing arts and currently provides up to $5,000 in grant money. Those interested in supporting the internship program and honoring Professor Nelson in this special way should visit www.davidson.edu/makeagift. Please make note of the internship name.