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Cliff Nash is an Aeronautical Industry ‘Top Gun’

UM alumnus Cliff Nash is executive director of Tupelo Regional Airport and president of Mississippi Airports Association.

University of Mississippi engineering alumnus Cliff Nash is among the “top guns” in aeronautics these days. Previously elected president of the Mississippi Airports Association, Nash was recently named executive director of the Tupelo Regional Airport. Selected from a pool of about 100 applicants, he had served as director of Tunica Airport since 2002.

“My job is to oversee the day-to-day administration, operations and maintenance of a commercial service airport,” said Nash, who also directed the Greenville Airport from 1995 to 2002. “Another responsibility is to develop and coordinate capital improvement plans along with available funding sources and work with engineering consultants and contractors.”
Nash also interacts with airfield tenants, pilots, passengers and prospective users and companies.
“Airport management, especially at smaller airports where you wear many different hats, is tremendously exciting,” he said. “There is never a dull or routine day.”

A certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives and life member of the Air Force Association, Nash helped start air operations in Tunica, which opened its airport in 2003 with a 3,500-foot runway. It was expanded a year later to 7,000 feet and again in 2006 to 8,500 feet. The $50 million airport was the first new commercial-service, federalized airport built after 9/11.

He acknowledges his UM engineering education as having been fundamental to his career success.
“Simply put, it instilled confidence, fostered determination and provided analytical thinking,” Nash said. “Basically, given the opportunity, I believe I can be productive and a valued asset anywhere. Tempered with my riverboat and military experiences, the three have certainly shaped my capabilities, work ethics and management style.”
An Oxford native, Nash literally grew up on the Ole Miss campus. His father served as director of student housing and the family lived in Sam Hall. He vividly recalled being in first grade when James Meredith enrolled and lived in nearby Baxter Hall.

“The National Guard was camped on and around the intermural field where the old athletic dorm is now,” Nash said. “I spent a lot of time hanging around and talking with the soldiers. That experience, and with my father being in the Naval Reserves, influenced me tremendously.”
The Nashes also lived in Kincannon Hall and the Twin Towers residence halls when they were built, all three on Rebel Drive.

“Someday, I’m going to write a book about growing up on the campus and call it, ‘My Life Experiences at Ole Miss: All Downhill,’” he jokingly said. “Seriously, the campus landscape has changed dramatically since 1959. However, it has remained Ole Miss and has grown more beautiful, beloved and renowned.”

Attending UM after high school on a faculty-staff scholarship was a simple decision for Nash. He first enrolled in 1974 for two years, then left college to work on the Mississippi River for Magnolia Marine, serving on riverboats carrying bunker oil to power plants in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. In the summer of 1979, he returned to Ole Miss and changed his major from law enforcement to civil engineering.

“I worked three part-time jobs, got married, had my first son, graduated with a BE degree and was commissioned in the Air Force, all by August 1982,” Nash said.
Taking a lot of courses in a very short time, Nash didn’t get to know his professors very well. A couple of engineering faculty and staff do stand out in his memory though.

“Although I only had Dean (Karl) Brenkert for two classes, I admired him for his character and resolve,” Nash said. “The one person I owe my entire experience and degree to was Mr. Damon Wall, who was the adviser for the School of Engineering. Had it not been for his counseling and support, I would not have completed my degree in three years and been commissioned in the Air Force.”

Keeping the Tupelo airport viable is important, and Nash is the right fit, said Fred Cook, chairman of the Tupelo Airport Authority.

“He definitely knows the ins and outs of the airport business with his experience, and we think we have a great candidate for director,” Cook said. “His experience, not only with the airports, but with the communities, stood out for the committee.”

Nash earned his Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry-Middle Aeronautical University. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic control officer in both fixed and mobile facilities and performed airspace management duties that included redesigning the airspace used by the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana. He also served on the AAAE’s U.S. Contract Tower Policy Board.

Nash and his wife, the former Ellen Crouch of Oxford, have two sons, Tyler and Lee, both of whom are married. They also have two granddaughters. He is a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church.
Nash is proud to acknowledge the impact UM has had on their family.

“In my immediate family, there are eight Ole Miss alums,” he said. “This is what I think makes Ole Miss so special – being cared for like family.”

Written by Edwin Smith
Story and photo courtesy UM Communications

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