Happy Wednesday, y’all!
WE MADE IT TO MARCH! I’m so happy that spring is here, especially with so many exciting things around the corner. This week, I’ve had all sorts of great adventures as Miss Nashville, including reading to Nashville schools for Read Across America week and heading to Miss Tennessee Workshop this weekend. And, I could not be more excited to introduce this week’s guest. He has guided me as a mentor through my studies in Social Entrepreneurship and one of the key people that cultivated my interest in changing the world through business. Although most of his students refer to him simply as “Dr. T,” Dr. Bernard Turner is one of Nashville’s most passionate movers and shakers and I am so glad I got to spend the past four years under his guidance.
Dr. Turner hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where he grew up with his older sister, younger brother, mom and stepfather. After graduating from East Tech High School, he attended Findlay College (now the University of Findlay) and graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration. He then attended the University of Toledo and received an MBA in Organizational Administration in 1978. Twenty years later, he received his MA in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota to expand his fundraising knowledge and skills. In 2003, he became the first African American male to receive a doctorate (Ed.D.) in Leadership & Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University.
Currently, Dr. Turner serves as an Associate Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and the Director for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Belmont University. Belmont’s undergraduate program in social entrepreneurship was the first in the nation when it launched in the fall of 2008 and has graduated 63 students to date. He has spent the past 27 years working with the Center for Nonprofit Management as a trainer and consultant. Dr. Turner’s extensive experience in the nonprofit sector includes fundraising for colleges/universities and nonprofits; health care; and economic development positions working with minority and women-owned businesses. Dr. Turner currently serves on the boards of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) and Soles4Souls, and has previously served on the boards for Nashville CARES and the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.
Dr. Turner has used his skills and passion to create landmark social change in the communities he has been a part of. He wrote the initial grant for United Way of Nashville to start a community-wide response to HIV/AIDS in 1990 and wrote a federal grant that was funded for $1.2 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources Services Administration while serving as the Development Director for the Comprehensive Care Center. He’s been recognized nationally for his excellence in grant-writing, non-profit consulting, and teaching. Although he’s so accomplished, you’ll never find Dr. T resting on his laurels—he’s the kind of person who is always striving to make the world around him a better place. I am so excited to share a little bit of his story with you today!
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the course of your life?
I have learned that if I be a blessing to someone else then I will be blessed. My life has been filled with joy because God has shown me favor because of this philosophy. I have also learned that there will be some mountains in life that you feel you cannot climb but every step you take toward reaching the mountain top is a lesson learned. My final thought is that education is a lifelong process. You learn on a formal and informal scale, both are important to your personal development.
Tell me about a time when you knew that what you were doing was making a difference.
A few things come to mind but I must say the Meharry/State Farm Alliance that allowed Meharry Medical College to receive the largest corporate gift in its history. This investment allowed us to initially look at why African Americans did not use their seat belts at the rate of Whites. Meharry researchers were also able to look at this issue among youth, those persons that were obese, and other populations. Working with state legislators in other states, mandatory seat belt laws were passed. Although there were some naysayers, the bottom line was that we were able to not only reduce injuries and reduce health related costs due to car accidents but also save lives. This is priceless!
How can the average person become more socially conscious? How can people help make a difference even if they’re not social entrepreneurs?
As Ashoka says, anybody can be a changemaker. The average person has a social issue that they are concerned with or passionate about and that’s a good place to start. All of us can make a difference by being servants. If we serve those that are less fortunate, we are walking and doing what Jesus wants us to do. I am a witness that God will use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. This has shown up time and time again when I use my God-given talent to write successful grants to tackle some of the problems facing our nation. You do not need the title of social entrepreneur to make a difference: just care, serve, and take action on something regardless of the scale!
What’s one of your favorite things about Nashville? What’s one area you think we could grow in?
Well, I am impressed with Nashville’s growth since I moved here in the summer of 1986. This growth and rich history coupled with its ability to be accepting while acknowledging differences has been remarkable, especially for a southern city. There are many areas we could grow in, but I want to step outside the box and not look at social issues as I am tempted to do given my background. I believe Nashville needs to strengthen its transportation system. This system impacts all of us – from those dependent on public transportation to get to and from work or find work. Those needing to access services such as healthcare, recreation and social activities, etc…to those like me that drive via streets and interstates from the southeast area of the county to get to work. In essence, a vibrant transportation system is part of the economic engine that allows all residents to participate in the city’s growth which in turn provides an opportunity for a better life.
Dr. Turner is one of the many reasons that I am so lucky to call Belmont home. His passion for social change is contagious and I credit many of my future plans to his guidance and support. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week, and carry this quote from Dr. T with you: “God will use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”