Nashville is a safer place because of Pat Shea. The YWCA runs Tennessee’s largest domestic violence shelter, and because of CEO Pat Shea, hundreds of women and families find respite and protection from abusive situations. With focus and determination, Pat continues to create innovative programs and initiatives to help raise awareness for this community problem and reduce domestic violence, and it is with great pleasure that we introduce Pat Shea: FACES of Nashville.

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a 54-year old wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, business manager who currently has the privilege of being the CEO of the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee. Prior to joining the non-profit world, I spent 20 years running for-profit healthcare businesses. During eight years as the head of the YWCA, our team has dramatically improved the impact of services to clients, our financial soundness and, I believe, our relevance to the Nashville and Middle Tennessee community.

How did you wind up in Nashville?

I was born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia, until attending college in Dayton, Ohio. I landed in Nashville two years after graduation, and Music City has been home ever since.

Who was an early mentor to you?

I have been influenced by some amazing people during my career. My first boss in Nashville was Dr. David Furse, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Owen School who was also starting his own marketing research/consulting firm. Sue Fort White actually introduced me to the YWCA almost three decades ago where I volunteered for over 6 years at TryAngle House and was in charge of all things fun. Frank Bumstead was one of my co-founders in Echelon Health, a physician practice management company focused on women’s health. And, the late Betty Henderson Wingfield, a dear friend and former YWCA Board Member, helped me start the Nashville branch of the Women’s Presidents Organization.


What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?

I’d like to share two pieces, if I may. First, “There is joy in every day. Find it.” I am still working on this.

Second, “The number one predictor of an organization’s success is the quality of their board of directors.” If you look at the YWCA’s board, I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed that one!

Your work with women in Nashville and Middle Tennessee is so compelling. From domestic violence to raising awareness about men and their importance in the family, your organization takes on some heavy issues. Is there a misconception about what the YWCA does?

Our YWCA volunteers, staff, donors and clients are not just those who are young (Y) or women (W) or Christian (C). Diversity is a big part of who we are. We pursue it. We embrace it. We work to keep our staff and board of directors reflecting the composition of our Nashville community. Our services are available to anyone regardless of sex, race, age, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

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In 2013, the program, Engaging Men Against Violence was created as a way to combat the fact that an act of violence occurs every 21 minutes in Nashville. Can you explain that program to us?

The YWCA has been working in the area of domestic violence for over 40 years, providing the necessary services to keep women and children safe. But the problem of domestic violence is not going away. In fact, Tennessee was recently ranked 6th in the country in the rate of women killed by men. Although most men are wonderful, the vast majority of violence against women and girls is still committed by men. It’s really a men’s issue, and if prevention is the ultimate goal, their involvement is essential. That’s why the YWCA men are leading an initiative to engage the “good guys” in our community to become involved and help us create a city where all women and girls are safe and valued.

Most people don’t know that the YWCA has been in operation in Nashville for 115 years. Can you share an interesting tidbit about your history?

Few Nashvillians know that the YWCA provided the late Pauline LaFon Gore (wife of Sen. Albert Gore Sr. and mother of Vice President Al Gore, Jr.) a safe place to live so that she could attend law school. The story goes that in 1933, Pauline LaFon came to Nashville from West Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt Law School, where she was the first female graduate. She rented a room for three years at the old YWCA building on 7th Avenue North for just two dollars a week. Pauline also worked as a waitress in a hotel coffee shop during this time. While working there, she met the future U.S. senator from Carthage, Tennessee.

Are there any new initiatives the YWCA is working on?

Due to the very hard work of a handful of volunteers, the YWCA is re-launching Dress for Success Nashville in February 2014. The DFS program, which targets economically disadvantaged women, will include suiting women who have secured a job interview, a week’s worth of work clothes once they are hired, a career center to provide needed job skills training and an ongoing professional networking group for support. We will also be opening an upscale retail boutique in East Nashville to offset the operational expenses of hosting DFS Nashville.

What is the greatest challenge I face as CEO of the YWCA?

At the YWCA, we work everyday to help women (and their children) find safety from violent relationships. We help them become self-sufficient through assistance with education, job preparation, and housing. My greatest challenges are building an organization that can meet all the need that exists in our community, helping women make permanent positive changes in their lives and funding it all.

Nashville continues to be in the national press. Is there something going on in town that you’re impressed about these days?

What impresses me the most is that Nashville is really a big city that maintains a small town feeling of “connectedness.”  This connectedness seems to create an energy that exists between all of us living here, a positive momentum to achieve great things.

Is there an event coming up that you are looking forward to attending?

I cannot wait for Wine Women & Shoes, on January 23, which benefits the YWCA. Among the many exciting elements of this event, we are particularly thrilled that critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Ashley Monroe will be performing. Wine Women & Shoes was created for women who enjoy fine wine, great style, and supporting a fabulous non-profit. The event features wines poured by vintners from Napa Valley, a live and silent auction, a fashion show, and a dazzling marketplace featuring local and national trendsetters. (Tickets are still available, by the way!:

Is there a recent meal at a local restaurant that has wowed you?

Just last week I shared a delicious meal at Etch Restaurant with one of my favorite people, Nicky Weaver. I had venison and the beets and berries salad, both at her recommendation.


Nashville has been called “Nowville” or even “Nextville.” Why do you think Nashville is always in the national press?

I think it takes people by surprise that Nashville is so cool. Just last year, I tried to convince a national women’s organization located in NYC to host its annual meeting in Nashville; however, I believe they thought I was making a joke. Once folks really understand all that is good about Nashville, they are blown away. Nashville’s Nowville is a reflection of so many facets and we embrace and celebrate them all.

If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?

Nashville would be located on a coastline.

What books are on your bedside table?

Over Thanksgiving, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, a very insightful book loaned to me by Tami Walker, director of our domestic violence services. Next on my table is The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney.

Do you have any irrational fears?

Are you suggesting that I might be paranoid?

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

Anywhere in Italy with my husband.

Is there something our readers would be surprised to know about you?

I am one of 8 children. I have five sisters and two brothers, and although only my sister Marie lives in Nashville, we are all very close. We make it a point to get everyone together at least once a year—kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and mom—it’s always fun!

What are 3 things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?

Wi-Fi, weekends, and wine

Thank you, Pat! 

For more information about the YWCA Nashville, or their upcoming events, visit this website: YWCA

Thank you Ashley Hylbert for the beautiful photography!

And for more of this interview, please pick up a copy of Nashville Lifestyles January issue as Pat answers even more questions there. A few questions may also be found online:

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Read more about Pat Shea in this shared interview at Nashville Lifestyles: