Nancy Andrews (Col ’86) is an award-winning photographer and managing editor for digital media at the Detroit Free Press. She’s won three Emmys for her video production work and published two books of photography. But before all that, she was a young woman growing up on a small farm in Caroline County, Va., thinking about college, and entranced by the idea of UVA.
“I loved everything it stood for,” she says. “I read all about Thomas Jefferson, and I loved the philosophy of the place.”
She enrolled and got a degree in economics, but cites the Cavalier Daily as her real major, where she served at various points as the photographer, photo editor and managing editor. It was a trial by fire experience, she says, and set the groundwork for her future career as a successful photographer and journalist. “It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done,” she says of putting out a student-run, five-days-a-week publication. “We ran that newspaper.”
Andrews recalls her experience at UVA as an enriching, multi-faceted and exciting time. And an especially pivotal time—she came out as a lesbian.
“I knew it was right,” she says. “I had learned this about myself. And I knew there were people that wouldn’t agree.” She explains that it was the mid-’80s, a different landscape in terms of the acceptance of gay people, and that some of the reactions she got were perhaps a reflection of her own feelings, which were a little fearful. However, she claims that the overriding outcome was support. “Did my friends change as a result? Absolutely not. I can’t really say anything negative happened.”
After stints at a Fredericksburg, Va., paper and the Washington Post, she moved to the Detroit Free Press. In addition to her newspaper work, she’s published a book of photography Family: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America and one about a friend of hers who had Alzheimer’s, which contains photography and spoken testimony called Partial View: An Alzheimer’s Journal.
After graduating, Andrews says she heard about some anti-gay sentiment at UVA, so she asked a former teacher if she could visit and talk to students.
“Nothing like talking to 400 people and telling them you’re gay,” says Andrews. Though she struggled through the talk—“I don’t remember what I said, I just remember that I talked about it”—the students were receptive and asked thoughtful questions. “I think it was good for the students. They’re all part of moving things forward.”
Women’s Studies at UVA
UVA founded the Women’s Studies Program in 1979 and appointed Sharon Davie (Grad ’69, ’72) its director. The program ran faculty development seminars in women’s studies and launched Iris: A Journal About Women. In 1989, at the recommendation of the Task Force on Women, initiated by President Robert M. O’Neill, the Women Studies Program split into the academic program and the Women’s Center, which provides services to students. In 1990, Ann J. Lane became director of the academic program, now a major, and the first UVA student graduated in the field of women’s studies.
One afternoon, when Glynn Key (Col ’86, Law ’89) and two female friends were chatting outside Key’s Lawn room, they witnessed a rowdy football player throw a piece of firewood through one of the Pavilion windows. Key and her friends chased the player, tackled him and kept him at bay while one of the women ran to call the police. “I heard later that the coach kicked him off the team,” says Key. “He would have normally been suspended, but he was kicked off because the coach didn’t like that he was tackled by three girls.”
As a student, Key was dedicated to academics and extracurricular activities; she was a Jefferson Scholar, the chairman of the Honor Committee, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta, a predominately black sorority. Key later became the president of the Alumni Association’s Board of Managers and a member of UVA’s Board of Visitors. “I consider myself very competitive, and I think that was something that was nurtured at Virginia. I had a desire to do the best at whatever it was,” she says.
As an African-American woman, she found UVA’s community to be supportive of her desire to excel. As the chairman of the Honor Committee, she says that other concerns were far more pressing than race or gender. “It was a larger issue of the gravity of the single sanction system and what you had to learn about yourself and other people,” she says.
From the moment she arrived at the University, Key appreciated the benefits of a large, vibrant community. “I think UVA is a place where you’re able to be exposed to things that are new,” she says. “You are allowed to bring yourself into traditions at the University, whether as a woman or as a minority. To me, it’s a collection of communities that are centered around core values.”
Still, Key, who now is general counsel for General Electric, recognizes that she and her peers were often pioneers. “I would bet that of the women who graduated in the ’80s, you’ll find out that they were the first minorities to hold certain positions in their fields.”