category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Nancy Bottoms

Professor Emerita of English and Art

Dr. Nancy Rogers Bottoms was born in Clemson, S.C., to Hilton and Evelyn Thorne Rogers while her father was a student at Clemson University. Hilton Rogers’ job as an extension agent meant the family moved to various locations around the state of South Carolina. The family eventually returned to Clemson, where Bottoms graduated from high school.

Bottoms attended Emory University in Georgia for her undergraduate degree in art history. Before classes started, she attended a freshman camping retreat. There she met a young man who was full of life, laughter and adventure. His name was Glenn Bottoms. “He was rebellious,” Nancy Bottoms laughed as she recalled their meeting. In 1969, five days after graduating from Emory University, Nancy and Glenn were married.

Her first job was teaching middle school English and art in Forsyth County, Ga. The Bottoms’ lives changed significantly when they agreed to teach junior high at a Federal Reserve school operated by Catholic nuns in Pukatawagan, a town in Manitoba, Canada.

The couple moved to a dramatically different climate and culture. They arrived in Pukatawagan when there was only one hour of sunlight daily and left when there were 23-hours of daylight. The school children became so excited when spring arrived, and they could swim in the river. However, spring meant there was still ice in the river and temperatures were barely above freezing. “It was an adventure,” Bottoms reflected.

Next, the couple moved to Ottawa, Ontario, where Glenn completed his master’s. While there, Nancy taught English in the Adult Education Program at Algonquin College. She fondly remembers her time in Ottawa where she found a passion for teaching adult learners.

The couple came to Boiling Springs, N.C., in 1985 when Dr. Glenn Bottoms began teaching for Gardner-Webb University. In 1994, Nancy Bottoms began adjunct teaching in the Department of English Language and Literature at GWU. While working, she obtained her Master of Arts in English Education from Gardner-Webb. In 2002, Bottoms graduated with her doctorate from Union Institute and University. Her studies focused on mythography, which is the study of the origins of myth and includes scholarship in literature, art, anthropology, sociobiology, philosophy, and religion, as well as mythology.

She was hired full time in 2005 as an assistant professor teaching in Department of Art, the Learning Assistance Program and for the English Language and Literature Department. She earned full professor status in 2017. Throughout her time at GWU, Bottoms presented research on education, mythology and southern culture at several conferences. She also worked on independent and collaborative art projects throughout her career at GWU. 

In addition to working in the English and art departments, Bottoms was heavily involved with planning and teaching Gardner-Webb’s first year student experience course, University 111. She developed curriculum for courses in mythology and African American art, served as a mentor for many undergraduate research projects and senior theses, and organized study abroad trips to Athens, Greece, and Rome and Florence, Italy.

In 1991, Bottom’s passion for adult education sparked an idea to create the College for Senior Adults at Gardner-Webb. She planned and coordinated classes each semester for retired area residents to have the opportunity to expand their knowledge no matter their age or position in life. She served as director of the College for Senior Adults until 2018.

She was the faculty secretary from 2015-2019 and supported the Life of the Scholar organization by arranging luncheons and cultural evenings. Bottom’s love for art led her to serve as the gallery director for the Ali Pouryousefi Memorial Art Gallery, Dover Library and Communication Studies Hall.

Outside of GWU, Bottoms volunteered her time to help countless communities by obtaining a grant for education enrichment of young adults, serving as the area coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (1989-1993), and volunteering for the “Art in the Heart of the City” project in Washington, D.C. (1989) to name a few.

Bottoms’ heart truly lay with her students, and her students valued her in return. Both she and Glenn loved having students over to their home to get to know them on a deeper level. At the end of each semester, the Bottoms generously opened their home to students for a drop-in celebration.

At her retirement ceremony GWU Associate Provost for Arts and Sciences and Professor of History Dr. David Yelton said, “I suspect Dr. Bottoms is most proud of the personal contribution she has made to countless first-generation college students, who found in her a desperately needed source of mentoring, nurturing, support, and encouragement. Indeed, she has been the difference that enabled many such Gardner-Webb students to overcome the long odds they faced.”

Bottoms worked at Gardner-Webb for over three decades. When reflecting on why she chose to stay at GWU, she recalled how supportive the school had been to her family and what a great place Boiling Springs was to raise her and Glenn’s son, Ary. With admiration in her voice, Bottoms said, “Gardner-Webb is, in the true sense of the word, unique.”

Source: Personal Interview—Jackie Bridges

Written by GWU 2020 alumna Claire Coile

Edited April, 2022

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