Nancy Flury Carlson '76 draws daily on the lessons she learned from Drury art professor Edythe West. In fact, she says West's 1970s art classes taught her to think for the 1990s business world. "The longer I live through life the more I realize how unique Edythe West's classes were," says Carlson.
Nancy comes back again and again to the thinking patterns and approaches to problem-solving she learned from West: "Art is a way of knowing yourself, a process of drawing order out of chaos. I learned all about out-of-the-box thinking, and in the corporate world today, that's how problems are solved." She remembers the time when a group of students spent several minutes analyzing an abstract painting, each finding different meaning. Just as they thought they were finished, West walked over to the group, picked up the painting, and turned it 90 degrees.
Carlson solidified her artistic thinking skills at Drury, then pointed her career in what might have looked like a totally different direction. After a few years working at Polyfab, a small Springfield sign company, she moved to St. Louis. Working in the law library at Washington University, she found she liked life among the stacks, and moved to the University of Pittsburgh for a master of library science. Pittsburgh also was where she met her husband, illustrator Fred Carlson.
From there it was into the business world, as a corporate librarian for Westinghouse. Researching industries, competitors, markets, materials science and even administrative models, Carlson called daily on what she'd learned from West. "I was drawing on this very advanced thinking Edith had taught me," she says, amazed at her professor's prescience. As the 90s waned, Westinghouse downsized and closed their corporate library; Nancy escaped the axe, and moved into the strategic planning department, where she still focuses on research.
Beyond a creative approach to her career, Carlson still uses her artistic abilities. A printmaker for years, she found time to focus on it more in the late 90s, and already has had a generous handful of shows in and around Pittsburgh. Nancy insists she creates primarily for herself: "I like to make art and when it's done, if someone wants to buy it, that's great."
Twenty-five years after she graduated, it's impressive to realize that Nancy still feels that connection to Drury. Pointing to her own path through life, she says she's learned that "a liberal arts degree is very valuable. You never know what might happen." Equally impressive is that Carlson feels such gratitude for a single professor. "Edythe was teaching us to do the spirit of art," she says. It looks like the spirit lives on.