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Overcoming Obstacles is a State of Mind

Troy Nash to receive 2017 Defying the Odds Alumni Award

Growing up in a single parent home and on public assistance in Kansas City, Missouri, Troy L. Nash (J.D. ’97, M.A. ’05, M.A. ’11, MBA ’13) worked odd jobs to help his mother make ends meet. The family bounced from home to home, forcing him to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

And adapt he did. After high school, Nash joined the U.S. Air Force where he said he learned to believe in himself and not “follow the crowd.” He learned the importance of making his own way in life.

“I think overcoming hurdles is a state of mind,” Nash said. “I have traveled all over the world. I have looked in the eyes of people who have had to overcome and endure far more than I could ever imagine.”

While in the Air Force, Nash sought out education. With the help of scholarships and loans, he earned an undergraduate degree. He then came to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to attend the UMKC School of Law.

“I love learning and seeking knowledge,” Nash said, adding that earning a degree “was secondary to fulfilling this insatiable appetite to know more.”

That hunger for knowledge drove Nash to pursue more for himself. “I got tired of my set of circumstances and the life I was living,” Nash said of his youth. “I did something about it. I got off my butt and started to improve myself by listening to positive, inspirational messages.”

Nash earned a total of four degrees at UMKC: a juris doctorate, masters of arts in both economics and political science and an MBA. He also holds a doctorate degree in education.

Mentorship and community service were important to Nash as a young man and continue to be important to him as an adult.

“Ms. Lowe [Rosemary Lowe, Kansas City community and neighborhood activist] taught me to appreciate my history in this country. And to treat all people with decency and respect,” Nash said. “Mr. Zimmer [Hugh J. Zimmer, Kansas City real estate developer] believed in me with respect to what I could accomplish in the business world before I believed in myself. He made me work harder, smarter and do all things with integrity. He is more like a father-figure than a mentor. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II taught me many things, one of which is that you can be an honorable, decent person and be involved in public service.”

At the age of 26 and while a UMKC student, Nash served as the student representative on the University of Missouri Board of Curators. Since graduating from the UMKC School of Law in 1997, Nash has gone on to serve on numerous civic and social boards and created public/private real estate and economic development partnerships in communities. Nash served on the Kansas City, Mo., City Council from 1999 to 2007. He presided over a major economic boom in Kansas City while he served as the chairman of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee.

As a city councilman, Nash tackled the issue of race by partnering with his friend and fellow city councilman Jim Rowland to create the race relations initiative “ONE Kansas City.” The initiative consisted of hosting community-wide town hall meetings, neighborhood exchanges and speaking opportunities for students throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Nash joined Kansas City real estate firm Newmark Grubb Zimmer in 2007. In 2014, Nash made history as the first African American real estate executive to become a principal and shareholder in a top 10 commercial real estate firm in the Kansas City area. He currently serves as the vice president and director of public sector consulting at the firm.

As managing director of that division, Nash works with a number of varied clients on economic development issues. His emphasis is on urban, suburban and rural economic development.

In 2015, Nash achieved another professional milestone by being nominated and inducted into the 2015 Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame. Nash also serves on the board of directors of People to People International.

Nash said he strives to be a positive force for good in the world, and his words of wisdom to young people are, “Where you start out in life has nothing to do with where you end up.”

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Nash and other outstanding alumni at the 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon April 20 on campus. The luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and garnered more than $120,000 in scholarship funds.

Click here for tickets or sponsorship information for the April 20, 2017, Alumni Awards Luncheon.

Click here for more information on the 2017 Alumni Award recipients.

Nominations are now open for the Class of 2018 Alumni Awardees. Click here to nominate fellow alumni who are deserving of the campus’ highest recognition for alumni achievement. Nominations close March 5.


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