Nancy Lea Harris Sublett: Paving the Way for Students in an Ever-Changing World

In 2012, a series of feature stories were written in support of Longwood University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, spotlighting major donors and initiatives. The features were used online and in printed publications.

Read “Paving the Way” article in Longwood’s On Point

It was 1957, and Nancy Lea Harris Sublett ’57 was a new teacher in Fairfax County, Va. Her classroom was one of the first in the school system to have a television—students were testing a new program to learn French. That October, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, marking the start of the space age.

“The whole world seemed to be changing right in front of us,” said Sublett, who majored in elementary education. “I think my experience that first year highlights one of the most important things an education gives you—the ability to adapt. For students starting now, what you know about the world when you begin college will be completely different by the time you graduate.”

After that first year, Sublett went on to see many more changes in society and education over the course of her 32-year career working for Fairfax County Public Schools. First as a teacher, then a guidance counselor, then a principal and finally as director of student services for the county, Sublett got to see many different facets of the school system.

“I was in charge of more than 220 schools, running the gifted, drop-out prevention, substance abuse and kindergarten preparation programs,” she said. “The leadership and people skills I learned at Longwood really opened many doors for me, and the student teaching experiences I had as part of my studies made me feel confident starting out.”

As a student, Sublett gained leadership experience by serving in Student Government Association all four years. During her senior year, she was student government president. One of her fondest memories was the work the association did to uphold the university’s honor code.

Having received financial assistance to attend Longwood herself, Sublett knew that one day she wanted to give back. Her “thank you” to Longwood comes in the form of a $1 million gift commitment as part of her estate plan. The James & Nancy Harris Sublett Legacy Scholarship will fund an endowed legacy scholarship for students who have at least one parent or grandparent who is a Longwood alum, who intend to teach and have a strong academic records.

While Sublett is quick to point out how happy she is that Longwood retains its friendly and small feel, she marvels at how many opportunities the students have today. She knows from experience that things are always changing and evolving.

“It’s amazing what the students are doing now,” she said. “They’re going overseas, flying airplanes and conducting research. Longwood’s not standing still—it’s moving forward, and I’m honored, really, to help pave the way for students.”

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