We can't wait to meet you

Schedule a visit Apply to Lyon

News

Rev. McSpadden remembered for welcoming spirit, spunk, humor

Rev. Nancy McSpadden (second from left) served as the Lyon College chaplain from 2003 to 2013.

 

Rev. Nancy McSpadden, a former Lyon College Chaplain, died on May 12. She was 67 years old.

In 2003, McSpadden took the position as chaplain for Lyon College in Batesville, living as a resident mentor in Young House. She led the weekly chapel services, as well as community services tied to campus events. She also taught a theology class most semesters and helped coordinate service trips for Lyon students.

Colleagues and former students remember McSpadden’s welcoming attitude and joyful personality.

College Chaplain Rev. Margaret Alsup, ’11, said McSpadden was “a force on campus.”

“She was a kind-hearted person with tons of spunk. Nancy showed the human side of what it means to be a minister, what it means to care for fellow beings.”

Alsup said McSpadden was always there to help students, faculty and staff alike.

“It didn’t matter the situation. She was there to provide a listening ear, words of comfort and God’s grace and humor wherever she went.”

Emily Brown Professor of Music and College Organist Dr. Russell Stinson described McSpadden as “a vivacious colleague and friend who was dedicated to helping others.”

“Hers was an inclusive ministry, to be sure,” Stinson said. “She also had a lovely sense of humor. May she rest in peace.”

“Rev. McSpadden always strove to ensure that Lyon was welcoming to students who fell anywhere on the spectrum of faith,” said Tyler Hudgens, ’12.

Nate Pyle, ’10, still remembers wandering into McSpadden’s office early his freshman year.

“We ended up having an incredibly Presbyterian conversation about how some people would prefer forcing Old Testament principles on a New Testament world.”

Pyle continued, “I never missed a Presbyterian Student Association meal and fellowship at Cowboys, and I have fond memories of Young House staff meetings, where she was always sure I had fresh coffee.”

Alsup said McSpadden encouraged students to ask the difficult questions of life and theology in class lectures, wanting students to “think critically about their faith and its impact on society.”

“She had the best liturgy for campus events, which a lot of times were written on the fly on the back of a napkin or program.” 

Administrative Assistant for Student Life Jennifer Hidy-Pitts, ’19, gave McSpadden her campus tour when she first interviewed for the chaplain position.

“I had lots of laughs over the years with her. I’ll miss finding her keys, coffee mugs and papers wherever she might have left them.”

Alsup agreed, saying McSpadden was notorious for leaving things behind wherever she went.

Hidy-Pitts continued, “If Nancy’s stature had matched her spunk, we would have been among a giant.”

Pastor Leslie Roper of First Presbyterian Church in Batesville said McSpadden was a gifted chaplain “whose love for students was apparent in all that she did.”

“She was a force for good in the community,” Roper said. “But mostly, she was a wonderful colleague and friend. I am grateful for our years of ministry together and that her spirit lives on in the countless lives that she touched.”

McSpadden was born in Little Rock, Ark., to Emmett and Joann McSpadden. The family attended the Rose City Cumberland Presbyterian Church in North Little Rock. She graduated from Bethel College in 1977 with majors in English and religion. She then attended Arkansas Tech University, graduating in 1979 with certification as a secondary school English teacher. 

She enrolled in the Foundational Studies for Diaconal Ministry program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and later graduated from the Memphis Theological Seminary in 1996. 

McSpadden was licensed on March 11, 1995, by the Arkansas Presbytery and was ordained at the Rose City church on July 14, 1996. 

She served as the Lyon College chaplain from 2003 to 2013. She returned to Memphis and attended culinary school, learning to bake. She later moved home to Arkansas to be near her family.

“She always loved baking and cooking and had the dream of going to culinary school in France to learn to make the best pastries she could imagine,” Alsup said. 

While McSpadden never made it to France, Alsup said, she did make it to culinary school.

“She did become an expert in pastries and did expand her knowledge of baking.”

Alsup feels grateful to have followed in McSpadden’s footsteps and hopes she provides the same care and guidance McSpadden provided when she was a student.

“Like Nancy, I want to challenge students to ask the difficult questions in life, to broaden their idea of faith and to work for the betterment of all people.”

Alsup concluded, “I also hope that students feel the love and humor of God through my actions, much like many students did during Nancy’s time at Lyon.”