About Charlie Nelms

Charlie Nelms, a native of the Arkansas Delta, has devoted his life to equalizing opportunities for disenfranchised peoples. He is currently a senior scholar at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and a senior consultant for the Association of Governing Boards, specializing in HBCU governance and leadership, as well as retired Chancellor, North Carolina Central University, and IU Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs Emeritus. In 2019, Charlie was awarded an honorary doctorate from Indiana University. Proceeds from his book From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie, A Memoir will help fund scholarships to historically Black colleges and universities across the nation.
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Ten Strategies for a Successful Presidential Transition & Presidency


When Prior Presidents Stick Around Campus


From the Margins to the Center: The Legacy of Dr. William E. Cox


Why I am Optimistic about the Future of HBCUs


Trustees Must be Held Accountable for Student Success


Keeping HBCUs Accountable to Their Mission, Students, and Communities


Dear Fellow HBCU Graduates

Paving the Way

Author Talk with Dr. Charlie Nelms and Eric Brotheridge


Candle-Lighting Time: Celebrating Black History Month Differently

Book Signing & Talk: Charlie Nelms, “From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: A Memoir”

Office Hours with John Gardner
Episode 9 – Charlie Nelms


An Open Letter to HBCUs: Do Not Let This Moment Pass Us By


Five Things Blacks Must Do to Keep Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream from Becoming a Nightmare


Giving the Gift of Education


Prerequisites for Effective Presidential Searches


Lessons from My Journey


DEI is More than an Acronym!

An Open Letter to Trustees of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Six Things HBCUs Can Do to Increase Alumni Philanthropic Support

WRTV: IU Vice President Emeritus on COVID-19 vaccinations: ‘The hesitancy is real’

Nurturing the Next Generation of Historically Black College and University Leaders

Dr. Nelms — Teaching in STEM 2021

WCTV: Higher education leader, author, speaker, & activist, Dr. Charlie Nelms discusses his attitude of gratitude during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why I Plan to Take the COVID Vaccine and You Should Too

Navigating the COVID-19 Landscape:
Strategies for Mature Citizens

Charlie’s Lecture at University of Michigan, Flint

Inaugural Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series

Transcript of Charlie’s lecture:

Collaborating for Success: The Role of Urban Universities, Foundations & Corporations in Community Revitalization

Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series
University of Michigan — Flint, October 19, 2020

Charlie Nelms Named to Inaugural Board of The Doug Williams Center for the Study of Race and Politics in Sports

The Doug Williams Center for the Study of Race and Politics in Sports will engage domestic and global conversations on race and politics in sports aimed at helping to identify, analyze, and develop feasible solutions. The Center will leverage the expertise of an advisory board that will include academic leaders, athletes, politicians, and activists.
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Navigating the COVID-19 Landscape:
Strategies for Mature Citizens

by Charlie Nelms
Like many mature and retired citizens, a year ago I was making plans for using some of the funds I had squirreled away for visiting places on my bucket list, and for escaping the predictably cold winters in the Midwest where I live. Little did I know that my plans would not only be put on hold, but that they might be completely abandoned, due to the devastating effects of the coronavirus sweeping the world. While listening to health experts, several things quickly became clear.
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New Book Club Chooses Nelms Book as Inaugural Title

The Millennium Leadership Initiative has chosen Charlie’s From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie – A Memoir as the first book in their new Book Club.
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Keynote Speech, NAACP Corvallis-Albany Oregon Branch virtual Freedom Fund celebration

Honoring John Lewis

It’s not Enough to Celebrate

Say Their Names

Charlie Nelms speaking at the George Floyd Rally at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Speaker and Story Teller

A captivating orator, Charlie possesses the ability to connect with audiences from all walks of life. Through his storytelling, he helps audiences to see beyond what is, so they can imagine what is possible when transcending their own immediate interests.

What can you expect from a Charlie Nelms speech?

A thought-provoking, passionately delivered speech on an array of contemporary topics, for audiences that transcend generational boundaries, socio-economic status, ethnicity or professional affiliations. As a university leader who has devoted his life to working to level the playing field for historically disenfranchised people, Charlie challenges his audiences to become more assertive agents of change for excellence, equity and inclusion in all dimensions of life.
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Books by Charlie Nelms

From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie
“Charlie Nelms tells his riveting story from share croppers’ son in rural Arkansas to university president. His memoir is a testament to the power of aspiration, character and education to overcome poverty and adversity. “
— Michael L. Lomax,
President & CEO, United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

Having My Say: Reflections of a Black Baby Boomer
From a national leader in higher education diversity and equity comes a timely collection of compelling reflections on giving, leading, changing, and advancing.

Charlie on Twitter

#TruthMatters. Calling all aspiring leaders! On your leadership journey you’ll discover that leading is often lonely. Take time to develop authentic relationships with those with whom you can consult & commensurate confidentially. Don’t confuse acquaintances with friends.

#TruthMatters. One of the joys of retirement is spending time in fellowship with other Black men over breakfast, brunch or a glass of wine where every topic is on the table and every moment is punctuated by laughter. No complaining, feigning or faking it—just keeping it real.

Calling all current and aspiring leaders! On your leadership journey, don’t forget to remember that incremental change can have monumental consequences. Seize every opportunity to lead.

Each year close to 16,000 students are enrolled in one of our 11 HBCUs, and each year more than 3,000 of them graduate, highly trained and accomplished. Many of our graduates choose careers as ministry leaders, doctors, lawyers, teachers and other esteemed professions.

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Read Charlie’s article in

Strengthening Governance at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Follow Charlie on Twitter