Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Announces 2021 Spirit of the Region Award Recipients

With an energetic crowd of over 600 attendees, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its biggest celebration of the year on October 27, 2021.

The Nashville Chamber recognized six individuals who propel the region forward by devoting their time and energy to helping advance key regional priorities. Award recipients included Senator Thelma Harper (posthumous award), Nancy Eisenbrandt, Pat Emery, H. Beecher Hicks III, James E.K. Hildreth and Bob Rolfe.

“Since 2008, the Chamber’s annual awards have honored individuals and companies that have contributed the most toward our organization’s purpose of creating economic prosperity by facilitating community leadership,” said Ralph Schulz, President and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “These individuals embody the Chamber’s brand promise to belong, engage, lead and prosper while helping position Middle Tennessee for continued success.”

Senator Thelma M. Harper, Posthumous Award

Senator Thelma Harper was the first African-American woman state senator in Tennessee and served for 30 years as the longest-serving female state senator in Tennessee history. She became the first woman to preside over the Senate and the first African-American woman to serve as the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee. Senator Harper also served as vice chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and was the first senator to chair the Tennessee Black Caucus. Harper began her public service career as grand jury foreman for Davidson County’s 5th Circuit Court and subsequently represented the 2nd District for the Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County Council.

Nancy Eisenbrandt

Nancy Eisenbrandt retired from the Chamber in August 2020 after almost forty years of service. Her staff leadership roles included small business, economic development and business services. Her passion for workforce development and talent recruitment has attracted investments from JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Lumina Foundation and the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning. Nancy has co-chaired the launch of ACCE’s Education and Talent Division for seven years and was instrumental in the launch of a fellowship that continues to develop education and workforce leaders across the nation. She continues serve as a consultant on two grant investments from JP Morgan Chase, TCAT-Nashville Advisory Board and is Vice Chair of the Nashville State Community College Foundation.

Pat Emery

Pat Emery is chairman of Hall Emery. Pat’s commercial real estate career spans 40 years of experience in Nashville, Charlotte, Tulsa, Denver, San Antonio and Kansas City. Prior to the creation of Hall Emery, Pat was with Spectrum Emery. Prior to, Pat developed, constructed, leased, managed and sold ten office buildings totaling over 1.5 million square feet of speculative Class A suburban office space in Cool Springs along with four speculative warehouse buildings totaling over 1.2 million square feet in LaVergne, TN. Emery ignited the development of the Cool Springs area having the vision in 1996 to see its potential as the Fortune 500 hub it is today.

H. Beecher Hicks III

H. Beecher Hicks III’s is the founding president and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music, or NMAAM. His relationship with the project began in 2010 when he began serving on NMAAM’s board before becoming CEO in 2013. From traditional African drum beats to modern hip-hop, the 56,000 square-foot experiential museum will highlight the many contributions African Americans have made to American music and culture. Henry draws on his musical passion and financial acumen to lead NMAAM’s fundraising efforts which helps provide the museum with a sturdy fiscal foundation, as NMAAM becomes a national tourist destination and economic development engine for Middle TN.

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth

James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D. is the 12th president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center. Dr. Hildreth was the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas and the first African-American dean of the College of Biological Sciences at University of California, Davis. Dr. Hildreth continues to be a leading voice, by spearheading local, regional, national and international initiatives that disproportionately impact communities of

color, specifically among Black and brown Americans with underlying health conditions. Dr. Hildreth was recently chosen by President Biden as a member of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

Commissioner Bob Rolfe

Bob Rolfe serves as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is responsible for recruiting new businesses and industry to the state, supporting existing companies, expanding economic opportunities across rural Tennessee and boosting the state’s overall economic prosperity. During Rolfe’s tenure, TNECD has landed roughly 600 projects, which represent more than 91,000 job commitments and $24 billion in capital investment. Under Rolfe’s leadership, Tennessee has secured a number of record-breaking wins and has recently led TNECD’s recruitment efforts to land Oracle, the world’s largest data management company. At 8,500 jobs, the Oracle project is the single biggest jobs announcement in Tennessee’s history.

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