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Candice McQueen speaks to Lipscomb University faculty and staff on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, after her selection as the university's first female president.
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Photo by Kristi Jones, Lipscomb University

Lipscomb names Candice McQueen as its next president

Former Tennessee education commissioner will make history as the first female CEO of a university associated with Churches of Christ.

For the first time, a woman will serve as president of a university associated with Churches of Christ.

Trustees of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., have chosen Candice McQueen, a former Tennessee state education commissioner, as her 6,000-student alma mater’s first female CEO. 

McQueen, 47, worked as the dean of Lipscomb’s College of Education from 2008 to 2014 and also as a senior vice president for one year. At the end of 2014, former Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, appointed her to oversee the Tennessee Department of Education, a high-profile role she held until 2018. 

Since 2019, she has guided the nonprofit National Institute for Excellence for Teaching. 

Candice McQueen speaks to Lipscomb University faculty and staff on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, after her selection as the university’s first female president.

Lipscomb’s board of trustees unanimously elected McQueen at a special meeting this week. A six-month national search for longtime President Randy Lowry’s successor drew more than 130 applications and nominations.

When she takes the helm Sept. 7, McQueen — whose family attends the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville — will manage more than 1,000 full-time faculty and staff at the university and nearby Lipscomb Academy, a K-12 Christian school.

“I am honored and humbled to be chosen to serve as the president of Lipscomb University,” the 1996 Lipscomb graduate said in a news release.

“I am honored and humbled to be chosen to serve as the president of Lipscomb University.”

“Lipscomb is a truly remarkable place where students grow in their faith and character while building toward their careers — all in partnership with exceptional faculty and staff who are leaders in their field. I know firsthand how life changing this community can be, and I want to ensure that experience for countless others for many years to come.”

In his own statement, David Solomon, chair of the board of trustees, said, “We are thrilled about Dr. McQueen’s return to the university. I am confident that her vision, deep expertise, passion for faith-based education and love for Lipscomb will lead us boldly into a new season of greatness, exemplified by excellence, diversity and immersion in our community as together we work to transform the lives of our students.”

Related: Will Candice McQueen really be the first female president of a Church of Christ university?

‘Profoundly historic moment’

Trace Hebert, a Lipscomb higher education researcher, called McQueen’s appointment a “profoundly historic moment” for the university, which David Lipscomb and James A. Harding founded as the Nashville Bible School in 1891. 

Trace Hebert

Trace Hebert

“Our institutions of higher education have historically been heavily influenced by both church theology and behavior that has limited the roles of women in the life of many churches,” Hebert told The Christian Chronicle. “Even though we have long stated that colleges and universities are not ‘the church,’ our behavioral patterns have overlapped, and this has heavily influenced decision-making in respect to presidential appointments.”

John Mark Hicks, a Restoration Movement scholar and theology professor at Lipscomb, said the choice marked a reversal of the traditions of the university’s founders. 

“David Lipscomb, James A. Harding and their generative group opposed any public role for women in both church and society — including any kind of public leadership in a college that invested them with authority over men,” Hicks said. “This appointment is a reversal of that tradition.”

McQueen will succeed Lowry, who announced Feb. 6 that he would transition to chancellor after 16 years as president.

Related: Is David Lipscomb turning over in his grave?

Lowry exalted McQueen in a Lipscomb publication after she was named the College of Education’s 2017 Innovator in Education. 

“Candice can see beyond what is to what could be,” Lowry said. “She also has a sense of creativity and a level of excellence that was beyond even our own expectation. She also has a sense of tenacity.” 

Lipscomb University faculty and staff greet Candice McQueen as she is introduced as the university's 18th president on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

Lipscomb University faculty and staff greet Candice McQueen as she is introduced as the university’s 18th president on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

A family affair

Candice McQueen is not the only member of her family connected to Lipscomb.

Andy McQueen, her husband and a Hillsboro church elder, is a Lipscomb alumnus who played on the men’s basketball team from 1991 to 1995. Their daughter, Abigail, will join their alma mater as a freshman this fall, and Henry, their son, will begin ninth grade at Lipscomb Academy. 

Education and ministry have always been a part of Candice McQueen’s life.

Her parents, Brenda and Nelson Hunter, spent three years in Iran teaching at the Tehran American School shortly after McQueen’s birth. Her mother later worked as a principal and teacher for three schools while her father served as both a minister and an educator until his death in 2007. 

“When your faith influences your personal decision-making and behavior, it can’t help but impact your professional life,” McQueen told the Chronicle in 2015 after her appointment as education commissioner. “Prayer was a critical part of my decision to accept this role — and it will continue to be so. I love God, and I love others. This won’t change.”

AUDREY JACKSON is Associate Editor for The Christian Chronicle. Reach her at [email protected].

Filed under: colleges and universities David Lipscomb David Lowry Lipscomb University Lipscomb University president Partners Top Stories

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