In the world of philanthropy, Tricia Carswell is a woman who Gets. It. Done. Whether that’s serving in her current volunteer role as president of The Women’s Fund, or traveling the country raising money for Furman University–her alma mater–as their Major Gifts Director, Tricia inspires everyone who crosses her path with her infectious enthusiasm, wit and charm. We are thrilled she joins us as this week’s FACE of Nashville!
What brought you to Nashville?
I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina and attended Furman University. I majored in English but studied vocal performance under the great Bing Vick and made my way to Nashville to experience the “singing thing.” I did the typical waiting tables by day and doing session singing in the afternoon and evenings. This was 1983. I don’t know what that world looks like now. It would be fun to see if I could actually “cut it” again!
You’ve had a busy career as a professional fundraiser at Vanderbilt and now for Furman University. How did you make the jump from recording studio session singer to philanthropy?
I met Ben Carswell on a blind date in Nashville. We married within a year of meeting one another and we went about the business of building a life. Marriage and motherhood moved me into the business of becoming part of the community. I volunteered and sat on not-for-profit boards and started raising money for the things I cared about and those activities just ballooned into a career. I’m very fortunate. I’ve always been asked to take on a job and each job served as the perfect primer for the next one. My career found me and I let it happen!
What’s your favorite part about being in the business of philanthropy?
I love being at the table at that seminal moment when someone decides to take part in something larger than themselves! When the transaction turns to passion you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice. It’s a privilege to be there helping them make it happen. The common thread of my professional devotion has been fundraising to support the needs of young people. Centerstone Community Mental Health Center, Children’s Hospital, The Owen School, and now, Furman University are all about the health, welfare and education of generations to come. My current professional focus is my alma mater. I love that I share this legacy with my daughter. Furman provides academic rigor within an approach that considers the development of the total person. A Furman education requires that each student be intentional about their purpose in life. And, as an alumna, past parent of an alumna and now as an employee, I am helping shape the future of this extraordinary school. Pinch me!
Tell us why you’re such a passionate supporter of and advocate for The Women’s Fund.
The Women’s Fund is the only endowed fund in Middle Tennessee solely devoted to supporting the needs of women and girls in our community. Because it is an endowed fund, it will exist into perpetuity. I have a daughter and I want her daughter’s daughter to give to this fund one day. Fifty years from now it will be a large enough fund to be truly transformative and possibly the largest fund of its kind in the country. And, our work is inclusive. Everyone can give to this fund and be a part of it. If you give $10 to the fund, YOU ARE THE FUND! I just love that.
What event(s) on your calendar are you most excited about in the coming months?
I am hosting a family gathering for my mother’s 80th birthday and that’s certainly something to celebrate. And, Ben and I are going to Paris with our grown daughter, Mary Lindley, to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, Carol Reynolds. And since it’s a “big birthday” we all said—where else? Paris!!!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Two things. My parents always told me: you have been blessed in so many ways; now go be a blessing! And, my husband reminds me that time almost always reveals the truth, so be patient and stick to what you know is the correct course–great advice in my kind of work but hard for two type A’s like Ben and me.
What’s your favorite part about living in Nashville?
It offers everything a big city offers but with the charm of a town!
What do you do to relax or recharge your battery?
When everyone is out of the house, I go to an acoustically wonderful room in my house and I sing as if I were in concert. I can sing a duet with anyone I choose and I always get a standing ovation. I clearly have a great fantasy life.
Mustards in Napa, California and Sperry’s in Nashville. We’ve been fortunate to travel a great deal and dine in some amazing places (including lots of great restaurants in Nashville), but it just feels like home when I open the door to Sperry’s. I haven’t figured out why, but that salad bar is just tops!
I know you love to travel. What do you pack in your carry-on bag to make life easier on the road?
I take a smaller version of a larger sleep machine that I keep at home. In any given month I can have hundreds of conversations in person and via email with donors and sometimes at night it is just hard to clear those conversations from my head. Sleep is critical.
Favorite vacation destination?
Any favorite vacation starts with Ben and Mary Lindley, together or separate. Napa and Bermuda are my favorite spots! Together they give me a combination of a slower pace and great vistas. Anyone who knows me knows I have to have the beach!
What’s on your bedside table? (And if books, what are you reading right now?)
The Bible Ben gave me when we were married and reading glasses, because I can’t see anymore. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and a great candle from Bella Linea. Oh, and my sleep machine. I just finished The Aviator’s Wife and I’m reading excerpts from John Meacham’s The Art of Power.
Any fashion must-haves for fall?
My horn necklace from Harpeth Gallery and my last season Reed Krakoff tan shearling bag. I love wearing 5 or 6 different shades of neutral on neutral.
Favorite beauty product you can’t imagine not using?
Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle perfume and Revlon’s One Step #1 ivory foundation. I have turned at least 50 women on to this product. It is so inexpensive and works just beautifully with the way too expensive stuff we all have.
If your house caught on fire, what non-living thing(s) would you grab?
Mary Lindley’s portraits, wedding photos, some family jewelry, my Bible (already mentioned)– it has sentimental commentary written in the margins, a priceless hard bound book written about the Carswell family (only five or six volumes still around so they are coveted by Carswells around the country) and all of my needlepoint Christmas ornaments that I will never have the patience to sew again!
Do you have a playlist of favorite music for a dinner party or a workout that you can recommend?
Michael Buble and Glen Campbell rock, and if it’s a Christmas dinner party, Andrea Bocelli and Vince Gill’s Christmas music are the best!
What three things could you not live without, excluding family, friends and God?
Vitamix blender, music of all kinds, my gardens
Thanks, Tricia! And thanks, also, to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photography.
Keep up with what’s happening at The Women’s Fund on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheWomensFundCFMT and learn more about Furman University here: www2.furman.edu.
And, see more of Ashley’s work here: ashleyhylbert.com.