Dr. Bob and Nancy Hanley carry torch of AU’s legacy of Christian leadership, teaching, service and mentorship
In December, it’ll be 40 years that Bob and Nancy Hanley have been married, but Nancy still remembers a line of verse that Dr. Hanley penned for her after their first date:
“You’re like a piece of heaven made especially for me,” Nancy Hanley quoted during a conversation on Zoom. The love birds even stole a kiss before their 90-minute interview was over.
And while this AU power couple are clearly very much in love, their romance is only one dimension of their four-decade impact on AU in the realms of administration, teaching, ministry and mentorship.
Nancy Hanley landed at Anderson first, in 1975, as part-time instructor who taught speed reading and studying tips so freshman and sophomores could effectively understand subjects such as psychology, sociology and history.
“It was a beautiful beginning,” Nancy Hanley said.
Dr. Hanley started teaching part-time at Anderson in 1979. By day he was a high school English teacher at his alma mater, Palmetto High School in Williamston, South Carolina, but his goal was to teach at the college level.
While they both worked at Anderson in the late-1970s, they didn’t meet here. One of Nancy Hanley’s friends from high school set the two up on a double date. Soon, the two married and still didn’t see each other much during the day; Dr. Hanley taught night classes. But within six years, he landed a full-time job as a professor in the Department of English.
Dr. Hanley says his mentors included the late-Dr. Frances Mims—after whom is named an AU lecture series by a high-profile book author. Dr. Mims influenced his approach to teaching: have high expectations for students but give them the support to achieve the high expectations.
“You just want to live up to that kind of encouragement,” Dr. Hanley said about his mentors. “It makes you want to strive to do better, be better.”
He teared up when he remembered Dr. Mims and the impact she had upon him.
“She was his first boss,” Nancy Hanley said.
In addition to serving as an English professor, Dr. Hanley has held the following posts at AU:
Chair of the Department of English, Chair of Faculty (twice), Associate Academic Dean, Dean of Student Services, Associate Vice President for Student Development, and Vice Provost for Academic Advising
As both a professor and administrator, Dr. Hanley helped people—and AU—grow in new ways.
When initially exposed to poetry in Dr. Hanley’s American literature class, a business major from Laurens, South Carolina, said, ‘“I don’t understand this stuff.” In response, Dr. Hanley quipped, “that makes two of us.”
At end of the school year the student, who Dr. Hanley remembered played football in high school, saying, “You opened up my eyes, and I enjoy this stuff.”
As dean of student services, Dr. Hanley hired Director of Health Services Deb Taylor to start a full-time health services department at the college.
Director of Campus Recreation and Fitness Winfred Green said he wouldn’t have achieved what he did if it wasn’t for Dr. Hanley, who saw his talent for connecting with people and helped transfer him from a manager of housekeeping role to a resident director and his director of campus recreation and fitness position. Green celebrated his 30-year-anniversary at AU in January.
While others are grateful to the Hanleys, the Hanleys say they are grateful to the supportive AU family.
“There are so many people we could have mentioned who have impacted Nancy, me and our whole family,” Dr. Hanley said. “These individuals, both fellow teachers and also staff members, with whom we had the privilege to serve from the early ‘80s to now would fill a list of many pages. To say it in a few words: we have been truly blessed.”
Nancy Hanley said the Anderson family showed its love when it responded to her need for volunteers to serve a local elementary school. In 2000, she retired from her full-time post as an education professor to work as a fourth-grade teacher at Homeland Park Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina.
Nancy Hanley said she wanted each of her 22 students to have a mentor with whom to read to boost their confidence. So, she put out the call to the University, and 22 Anderson staff members, professors and students committed to serve each week at Homeland Park for the year.
In addition to that commitment, other members of the Anderson community, including First Lady Diane Whitaker, volunteered to serve Homeland Park in other ways. Whitaker visited classes to read a book about West Highland Terriers and brought in Casey, who is her and President Dr. Evans Whitaker’s West Highland Terrier. Also answering Nancy Hanley’s call was an Anderson physics professor who gave a presentation on astronomy.
He brought “several telescopes for the students, parents, and even grandparents to view the sky to reinforce our unit on the solar system,” Nancy Hanley said. On another occasion an English professor led her class in organizing a Dr. Suess day at Homeland Park.
Dr. Hanley pitched in too and wrote a grant for the school, which supplied a book for every student.
“It was really a God plan for those children,” Nancy Hanley said.
The Hanleys’ children, Nick and Jill, were exposed to powerful Christian leadership that pervaded campus. Their son, Nick, earned two master’s degrees from AU, in ministry and education supervision and leadership.
After teaching at Homeland Park, Nancy Hanley returned to work at AU in 2013. She serves as the director of the Lifelong Learning Institute and the director to the AU Teaching Fellows program. Dr. Hanley continues to serve as the Department of English chair and as vice provost for academic advising.
“You just go home,” she said, “when you go back to AU.”