Nancy Gray Spann, ED.D.


Dr. Richard D. Howe, “Nancy Gray Spann, ED.D.,” Appalachian State University Libraries Digital Collections, accessed April 24, 2024,

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Nancy Gray Spann, ED.D.


Appalachian State University
Universities and colleges--Faculty


Dr. Richard D. Howe




Biographical sketches


Boone (N.C.)

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage



Director Emerita, General Studies

Biographical Text

Nancy Gray Spann (June 10, 1941-) was born in Statesville, North Carolina, the eldest daughter of James Perry Gray, Jr. (1917-1993) and Margaret Thompson (1918-1980). Spann graduated from Statesville High School in 1959 and received a B.A. degree with a major in English and a minor in mathematics from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in 1963. She continued her education at the University of Texas at Austin, where she received an M.A. in curriculum and instruction in 1976. She earned an Ed.D. degree in curriculum and instruction with a major in adult learning and development from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 1991. During her master's work, she was a research associate with the National Institute of Mental Health Project, Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas. She served as a graduate assistant in the office of the associate dean during her doctoral work at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Dr. Spann married Milton ("Bunk") Graham Spann, Jr. (March 31, 1942-) of Greenville, South Carolina, on August 16, 1964, in Statesville, North Carolina. He is the child of Sara Chalmers and Milton Graham Spann, Sr. The Spanns have one child, M. Graham III (November 17, 1968-), who has B.A. and M.A. degrees in sociology from Appalachian State and earned a Ph.D. degree in sociology in 2000 from North Carolina State University. He is head of the sociology program at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina and he is married to Nan McAden (November 3, 1970-) from New Bern, North Carolina. The couple has one daughter, Sara Rose McAden (September 26, 2002-) and one son, Mills McAden Spann (February 2, 2005-). During her career, Dr. Spann was a public school teacher of English, reading, and mathematics, an admissions counselor and instructor at Montreat-Anderson College (now Montreat College), Dean of Women in the College Preparatory Institute at Montreat-Anderson College, and a community college teacher of English and mathematics. In January 1977 she was appointed as an instructor/counselor in the Special Services Program at Appalachian State University where she taught reading and study skills and served as an academic advisor to at-risk students. In 1980 she was appointed the director of the Upward Bound/ Special Services Program which evolved, in 1983, into the Learning Assistance Program. She was the founding director of the Learning Assistance Program and oversaw its expansion into a nationally recognized program for at-risk students. In 1989 the program received the John Champaign Award for Outstanding Developmental Program from the National Association of Developmental Education. Further, under Spann's leadership, the Learning Assistance Program developed into a student academic support vehicle for all students at Appalachian. In 1992 Spann was appointed Director of the General Studies program. This program assists first-year students in getting acclimated to the college campus and at that time encompassed academic orientation, academic advising, and the Learning Assistance Program. Under her leadership, the orientation and academic advising programs grew and expanded and several new programs were developed to enhance community among first-year students. In the same year as Dr. Spann's appointment to director, the advising program received, from the National Academic Advising Association, a Certificate of Merit as an Outstanding Academic Advising Program. In 1997, Spann was the co-founder and later director of the Summer Reading Program, which became a model for similar programs in higher-education institutions across the country. Along with this endeavor, in 2001, she initiated the community reading program, "If All of Watauga Read the Same Book" (now "Watauga Reads") as a joint venture with the Watauga County Public Library, Caldwell Community College, and Watauga High School. In 1998, she and the chair of the Department of Mathematics initiated Freshman Learning Communities, which has also been recognized as a model program in higher education. In 2001, Appalachian State received several awards for its model programs for first-year students. These include Time magazine's recognition for outstanding freshmen programs (September 11, 2001 issue); the Noel/Levitz Retention Award (one of three) for retention of first year students in the Freshman Learning Communities program sponsored by the Noel/Levitz Centers for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education; and the designation (one of thirteen) as an "Institution of Excellence in the First Year," given by the Policy Center on the First Year of College. Spann was active in professional organizations in the fields of developmental education, first-year students, administration, and women in higher education. She served as treasurer of the North Carolina Association of Developmental Studies (1989-1993) and chaired the 1989 conference of the North Carolina Council of Educational Opportunity Programs. She was President (1996-1997), President-Elect and Conference Program Chair (1995-1996) and Conference Chair (1999-2000) of the national organization, Association of Deans and Directors of University Colleges and Undergraduate Studies. She was a member of the Association of General and Liberal Studies, the American Association of Higher Education, the National Academic Advising Association, Women Administrators in North Carolina Higher Education, and the North Carolina Association of Women in Education. She has published in the areas of university college administration, student orientation, summer reading, and academic advising. In addition to publications, Spann made numerous conference presentations on summer reading, learning communities, first-year students, tutoring, program evaluation, strategic planning, academic advising, learning support, retention, and invitational education. Further, she has done various consultations including: an evaluation consultant to the State System of Higher Education in the State of Pennsylvania for general education; faculty of the Learning Communities Institute for Augsburg College; outside evaluator for the learning communities program at the University of Akron; presenter on Summer Reading Programs for the University of Central Arkansas; and invited consultant for the Visiting Educators Program for the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Spann is active in the First Presbyterian Church of Boone, where she has served as a ruling elder, Sunday School teacher, Chair of the Christian Education Committee, President of Presbyterian Women, a Stephen Leader, chair and treasurer of the Presbyterian Campus Ministry Board of Directors, chair and member of the Youth Advisory Council (2007-2008) and a member of the First Morning Out Advisory Committee (2007-2009). She is in her second six-year term as a member of the Board of Regents of Barium Springs Home for Children, a Presbyterian affiliated agency, near Statesville, serving as chair (chair, 2001-2003), vice-chair, (1999-2001), a member of the Presidential Search Committee (2000), and a member of the Capital Campaign Committee (2002-2004). She currently serves as secretary (2008-2010) on this Board. In addition, she is co-chair of the 2009 Women's Connection women's conference in Montreat, N.C., the Conference Center of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In the Boone Community, she is serving as chair of the Southern Appalachian Historical Association, producers of "Horn in the West" (2007-2009); secretary of MountainKeepers (2004-present); co-chair of Watauga County Public Library's community reading program (2001-present); "Watauga Reads;" member of Watauga County Public Library's Endowment Committee; and a member of the board of OASIS (Opposing Abuse through Service, Information, and Shelter). Spann and her husband enjoy traveling and spending time with family and friends. They are also doting grandparents to their grandchildren, Sara Rose and Mills. Sources: Appalachian State University files, personal correspondence, and long association. -Dr. Richard D. Howe

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