There are countless women who have dedicated themselves to the betterment of our community, and Joyce Searcy is among them. Belmont University’s Director of Community Relations, Joyce Searcy impacts the community from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — and beyond. In addition to connecting the community of Belmont with the wider community of Nashville, Joyce works to promote literacy through her work with the Nashville Public Library and the Nashville Public Library Foundation, engage Nashville’s international community through her position on the board of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and empower the women and girls of Tennessee in her elected position on Tennessee Women’s Forum. And that is only the beginning.
We are not the first to acknowledge Joyce’s achievements, nor will we be the last. She is the recipient of the Women of Legend and Merit Award from Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University’s Scholar ‘Prophetarium’ (Community Leader of the Year), the Hispanic Chamber’s “Amiga of the Year,” the ATHENA award and Metro Nashville Community Service Award. Additionally, she has been recognized by local organizations, including the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the ACLU, CommunityNashville, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Nashville Conference of Christian and Jews, the YWCA’s Academy for Women of Achievement, the NAACP and 100 Black Men.
Joyce is a tireless advocate for each and every member of our community, and for that, we thank her and welcome her as today’s FACE of Nashville.
Tell us about your background. How did you land in Nashville?
Having just turned 17 years old, I came to Nashville to attend Fisk University. I’ve called Nashville home ever since!
What are your main responsibilities as Director of Community Relations at Belmont University?
As the founding Director for the Office of Community Relations, I work to identify and cultivate alliances with neighborhoods, community groups, nonprofits, for-profits, businesses and governmental authorities in Nashville to increase the effectiveness of Belmont’s outreach and service initiatives. I like to tell people that I have one foot on the campus and one foot off. I have to know what people and their organizations are doing — and aspire to do — to help meet the ever-changing needs of the community, then determine if Belmont can align its vision and resources to help achieve the community’s goals. Seeing ourselves as “Nashville’s University,” we are dedicated to continuing our efforts throughout the community and beyond, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to serve both the University and our city in this role.
What makes you the ideal person for this position?
All my life, I have been in the business of changing lives, and I have a natural curiosity for wanting to learn about people’s aspirations and talents. Then it is instinctive for me, as one who can relate well, to develop a strategy where people can put their varied gifts to “stretch” and work together to achieve the common vision.
What motivates your commitment to giving back to the community?
I love contributing to other people’s growth. I love watching them develop their talents and change their lives. I consider it one of my work’s greatest blessings when someone’s life is changed as a result of something I did. My life has been changed over and over as a result of just wanting to help others achieve their dreams.
Tell us about a few ways you are currently involved in the community and why you are excited about those involvements.
Serving on numerous local and national boards has been instrumental in my growth and has, in many ways, directed my career path. Currently, I am thrilled to be Secretary-Treasurer for the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NAHCC) and also sit on the governing boards for the Nashville Public Library (NPL) and the Nashville Public Library Foundation (NPLF). Nashville’s international community is growing, and NAHCC allows me to work with Hispanic business leaders to let all know that inclusion for minority business owners is good business for Nashville. Reading has always been an integral part of my life, and I’m honored to play a role in Nashville’s literacy development initiatives through my work with the library. Rather than have their children enter a segregated library, my parents ordered books to come to our home throughout my childhood. The library’s mission to “Inspire Reading, Advance Learning and Connect our Community” connects perfectly with my own life’s mission.
National Hispanic Heritage Month begins Saturday. How does this celebration fit into the local context of Nashville?
Belmont University traditionally sponsors the kickoff to Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate the rich history and contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to help Nashville flourish. Our city is where we are today because of the work of so many people from so many backgrounds. It’s our responsibility to continue to honor the legacies of the people who have created our communities.
Recently elected to Tennessee’s Women’s Forum, how do you hope to empower the women and girls of Tennessee?
If women remind ourselves of the old Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky,” we can already realize our power. Tennessee’s chapter of the International Women’s Forum connects diverse women leaders to a support network to influence change that helps women and girls develop and thrive.
What do you hope your legacy to be?
She spread joy and helped others grow.
Locally, who is inspiring you?
Mignon François created The Cupcake Collection when she had nothing. We also share the same birthday (which happens to be Independence Day!).
Brenda Morrow is the Edgehill community’s conscience, who subtly teaches one way to show respect when she addresses everyone using courtesy titles — including children.
Martha Ingram mentored me for a year and told me during one session, “You don’t need to know that. Find someone who does.”
When you aren’t working, where can we find you?
Trying to read the book on my list before my book club discussion.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
In preparation for a special project that we are doing at the library, our committee is reading The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss. My book club is reading Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
When I got married, my mother told me, “Only argue over the big stuff. Don’t waste time arguing over the little stuff ’cause you know what you are gonna do anyway.” She was right. I have now been happily married for 47 years.
What are three things you cannot live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
A dynamite pair of colorful heels, young people who tell it to me straight, and cayenne pepper — anyone who knows me can attest to that. (I always have some in my purse, just in case you ever need any!)
Thank you to Joyce Searcy for sharing your commitment to Nashville, and a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!
With 23 years of nursing experience and 16 years as a lactation consultant (not to mention her firsthand experience as a mother and now grandmother), Noreen Webb is not only passionate about working at TriStar StoneCrest, she’s also well-versed in the benefits, challenges and myths associated with breastfeeding. CLICK HERE to meet our newest FACE of TriStar!