Jim Nash was asked to join the Davidson College family almost 13 years ago. He had spent his entire career in professional showbiz, supporting acts like The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles and major motion pictures, and it was clear that he was the perfect person to lead the campus' technical services group.
"I worried about leaving big show business," he said, "but since I've been at Davidson, I've had more magical, big-show moments than I had ever experienced before. I've never felt more certain that I'm supposed to be someplace than I do on this campus."
Nash sees his role and the role of his outstanding team members as one that is easily unnoticed, though he does refer to the group as ninjas because they can do anything given the appropriate amount of time and resources.
He recalls President Carol Quillen's first days on campus in 2011 and how important it was for everything to be just right when she first presented her message to key constituencies.
"No one really says anything to you if things go off without a hitch ... it's when something goes wrong that everyone knows your name," he said with a smile. "I've spent my career in the dark making everyone else look great in the spotlight, and I'm fine with that."
Nash sees his role as technical director as so much more than a job. He is a part of his staff members' lives, on and off campus. These relationships led Nash to make some remarkable decisions when he was awarded the Matthews Travel Award, a $20,000 prize, at the annual faculty and staff end-of-academic-year celebration earlier this summer.
The Matthews Travel Fund was created as a memorial to Eugene Robinson Matthews '36 and James Houston Matthews '50 by their brother, B. Frank Matthews II '49, their sister, Elizabeth Matthews Welton, and other friends and family members. The prize is awarded annually to a faculty or staff member for first-class travel to provide personal renewal to the winner.
The recipient is selected from nominations by fellow faculty and staff members, and when Nash's name was announced in an auditorium full of his colleagues, a powerful standing ovation ensued.
"I was backstage where I always am at this event," Nash recalled, "and I wasn't really paying attention at the moment I heard my name. I walked onto the stage, which is completely uncomfortable for me, and the whole place was on its feet. At that moment, I felt like I won it for the whole college. I didn't even need the money after that. I was center stage on a stage that I've poured my blood, sweat and tears into. It was the best honor I've ever received. "
After the excitement settled, Nash quickly decided that the award was for his team, not just for himself.
With part of the award, he is contributing to senior stage tech Alex Miller's upcoming honeymoon. With another portion of the prize money, he's sending Brandon Kincaid, stage tech, and his girlfriend on a getaway to New England. Finally, he's taking Ryan Clark, assistant technical director, on a big game fishing trip.
With what's left-if anything-he'll think about what else he might like to do.
"These three guys make me look good every day," said Nash, "and the only reason I won the award instead of them is because people know my name. I believe in a family approach to supervision, so we for sure won this together."