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VOL. 126 | NO. 92 | Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holden Nixon Wins Advocate Award

By Taylor Shoptaw

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Barbara Holden Nixon of The Urban Child Institute has received the Mary F. Todd Advocate of the Year Award from the Memphis-Shelby County Children and Youth Council.

Holden Nixon

(Photo: Bob Bayne)

Hometown: Memphis
Work Experience:
Forty years of social work experience, having worked in mental health, hospital and rehabilitation, and child welfare.
Favorite quote:
“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.” – Garrison Keillor
Favorite music:
Jazz is my very favorite type of music. I particularly love Miles Davis.
Activities you enjoy outside of work:
My favorite thing to do is spend time with my beautiful grandchildren. I also love reading, playing tennis, hiking, and playing Mah Jongg, which is an ancient Chinese table game. It never gets old.
What originally drew you to The Urban Child Institute?
One of my first exposures to the neuroscience and early brain development message happened in 1998 when I read “Ghosts From the Nursery” by Robin Karr-Morse. It’s an extraordinary book by a brilliant woman. After working in the child welfare field for years, I was struck by the hopeful message the science provides us. Good news: There is a solution – start early. The earlier the better.
What is the focus of your work at The Urban Child Institute?
I’m a child advocate at heart. I’m so blessed in my current role at The Institute. I not only get to serve in an advisory capacity around strategy, policy and dissemination efforts, I also get to participate in a visionary role and help stimulate the creative thinking process.
What does it mean to you to receive the Mary F. Todd Advocate of the Year Award?
I am so humbled by this honor. Mary always went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to serving children and families. I went to graduate school with Mary and I know the essence of her and her work. Receiving this award makes me feel like I’ve accomplished the values that I believe in.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments? I get so much joy from taking an idea and working with the community to achieve greatness. In both mental health reform and early childhood advocacy, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with local leaders and engage the public to accomplish change. I consider the partnerships and relationships that I’ve built to be my greatest accomplishment, as well as my greatest gift.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I truly enjoy working with the intelligent young people who represent the next generation. At The Urban Child Institute, I get the opportunity to guide and provide direction to some of our best and brightest child-serving professionals. My joy in guiding these young professionals lies in sharing their lived experiences and feeling their passion in promoting positive change in our community.


Dr. Clarence B. Watridge, chairman of Semmes-Murphey Clinic, has been named vice president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Watridge has been chairman of Semmes-Murphey since 2002 and a practicing member since 1985.

Dr. Dan Boyd has been named medical director of Lakeside Behavioral Health System’s new Neurosciences Center. Dr. Boyd is a graduate of Baylor College of Medicine and completed his residency in psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. He was honored with “Physician of the Year” by employees of Lakeside in 2008.


Diane Ridgway has rejoined Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital as chief operating officer and vice president of patient care. Ridgway previously served as chief operating officer of WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Ga.

William Edward Routt III has joined Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC. Routt joins the firm as an associate with a variety of civil and business-related litigation experience. He represents regional and national clients in securities litigation, white-collar defense and government investigations.


Chermael Casem has been promoted to chief operating officer of Seedco. Meredith Hennessy has been promoted to vice president, Mid-South Programs, and Sondra Willis-Howell has been promoted to senior program manager.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health, has been named to the Southern College of Optometry’s board of trustees.

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