From left: COA President Vickie Harris, Nancy Conway, Hertha Hines, Grace Sutherland Smith// Photo by Brooke Wanser.


On Monday afternoon, the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee recognized four individuals and one organization with the Sage Award for the lifelong service they had provided their community.

Nancy Conway, the senior vice president of community relations at Williamson, Inc., the Chamber of Commerce, was honored with the Sage Award.

Conway is a lifelong resident of Williamson County, attending Franklin High School as a teenager. She served as the president and chief executive officer of the Williamson County/Franklin Chamber of Commerce for 30 years; she also has been active on the board of Columbia State Community College and with Franklin Tomorrow, the Carter House, Leadership Middle Tennessee and many more.

Hertha Hines, the director of community relations for NHC Place in Cool Springs, presented Conway with her award, referring to her both as a “rare jewel” and “the Energizer bunny.”

“You’ll see her everywhere. If you want to know what’s going on in the county and who you can meet, you need to call Nancy,” she said.

Hines related a story about Conway’s involvement with Timberland Park near the Natchez Trace Parkway.

“That property was owned by the state and there was a handful of people that decided it would be great to have Timberland Park,” she said. Hines said she was at the park last week with a group of seniors who appreciated it, especially since it was ADA-accessible.

“I think about all the good things throughout Williamson County, and the fact that it didn’t just happen with one person,” said Conway of her involvement. “No, one person can’t do it. It takes a group.”

Conway asked the group gathered to join her in continuing to be involved, for the sake of future generations: “That quality of life will be there for them, and they will enhance it as well,” she concluded.

Other honorees were Em Ghianni, a 94-year-old World War II veteran who is active in veteran’s groups; Susan Huggins, a leader in the non-profit community and president of CABLE; and Gwendolyn Vincent, a 35-year veteran elementary school teacher with Metro Nashville Public Schools.

For the first year since the awards ceremony began in 1992, the Council on Aging recognized FiftyForward, a resource for aging adults over 50, with the Sage Organization Award.

Many former Sage honorees attended the event, which was held at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs. Geraldine Butts, who pushed for health initiatives in the community and is a former math tutor, was one of the past honorees, designated by her red rose boutonniere.

“The Sage Awards are one way that COA is changing the conversation about aging,” said Council on Aging executive director Grace Sutherland Smith, “reframing it from the stereotypes about poor health and decline that we hear all the time, to an active time of life that should be celebrated and embraced,”

“I love what one writer cleverly noted,” she continued. “Just remember, once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed!”

Glasses clinked as attendees shared a toast to “picking up speed” and celebrating the Sage honorees.