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On Board

Spotlighting the work of TC’s dedicated Trustees


The Matchmaker    

Leslie Nelson has a gift for identifying needs and finding the people to address them

Leslie Nelson remembers a family vacation when her mother, Enid “Dinny” Morse, then Teachers College Board Co-Chair, was often on the phone. “She was a member of the presidential search that brought in Arthur Levine,” says Nelson, who became a TC Trustee herself in 2010. “I guess I have TC in my genes.” 


Meeting Needs

“On-site initiatives often provide the best solution. So I thought, why not bring the mental health services to the school?”
—Leslie Nelson

Like her mother, Nelson, former founding head of a successful interior design firm, approaches her TC board service with a keen-eyed humility, advancing ideas based on a deep understanding of institutional needs. Consider her improvement of the Teachers College Community School music program, funded by the Morse family, which imports musicians from Young Audiences New York. Upon hearing that the teaching artists wanted to learn more about pedagogy, Nelson and her brothers, Douglas and Andrew Morse, proposed the creation of a teaching artist certificate program that imparts pedagogical and practical skills to facilitate better communication with students with diverse learning styles. They have since funded that initiative with their friend, Kim Greenberg, parent of a TC alumna.

Similarly, another developing project — through which TC clinical psychology doctoral students will provide on-site mental health support in public schools — arose from Nelson’s longtime service as a volunteer public school assistant teacher.

“One year, we had a particularly challenging group of fourth graders,” she recalls. “Many students had social and emotional issues that inhibited their academic ability. Even when these issues were diagnosed and treatment recommendations were made, there was often no follow-up. I am a firm believer that on-site initiatives often provide the best solution. So I thought, why not bring the mental health services to the school? It’s like the old model of mammogram mobiles, which brought the screening right into the underserved neighborhoods.”

Given her success in galvanizing these efforts, possibly only Nelson was surprised when, in 2014, the College asked her to serve as Vice Chair of its Campaign, Where the Future Comes First.

“I nearly fell off my chair,” she says. “But it turns out I like matching people’s interests with TC’s work.

“Being on the board has been more fulfilling than I ever would have expected,” adds Nelson, who has served on the College’s audit, academic affairs, strategic innovation, compensation and development committees. “I’ve learned so much, and Susan Fuhrman and her team treat the Trustees as genuine collaborators.” As Nelson has repeatedly demonstrated, that’s because they are.

—Joe Levine 

Published Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016

Leslie Nelson