Knoxville Area Urban League Staff
Phyllis Y. Nichols
President & CEO
Phyllis Young Nichols is president and chief executive officer of the Knoxville Area Urban League. She joined the Urban League as a curriculum and education specialist in l994 after many years in public education and private business. As CEO since 2000, she has expanded the Urban League's impact to serve over 10,000 individuals and families each year through its 24 programs to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase and retain homeownership; to support economic and small business development; to gain certification of the affiliate as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI); and to advocate for equity and excellence in education for students of color.
A graduate of East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Nichols has completed continuing education and leadership courses at the University of Tennessee; Whitney M. Young, Jr. Center for Urban Leadership; and the Duke University Center for Executive Leadership. She is a 2003 graduate of Leadership Knoxville and the TBI and FBI citizens academies and a member of Class V of Leadership Tennessee.
Recognized as a senior fellow by the National Urban League, her expertise in board and affiliate development has facilitated her work with the Urban League and other non-profit organizations throughout the country.
Her community involvement includes many boards, task forces and committees, including past president of the Executive Women's Association. Nichols is past chair and current trustee of the Great Schools Partnership, the public education foundation for Knox County Schools. She is a former board member of the East Tennessee Foundation and Tennova Healthcare Metro and is serving currently with the SunTrust Advisory Board and Knoxville Symphony Board.
Nichols has received numerous awards and recognition, including the Women of Achievement from the Tanasi Girl Scout Council; Phi Beta Sigma Business Image Award; Chi Eta Phi Humanitarian Award; “Be More” Person of the Year by East Tennessee PBS; and the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information – Diversity Award. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission recognized Nichols for her advocacy for civil rights and social justice, and she was recognized with the “Women of Power” Award by the National Urban League. The YWCA of Knoxville Tribute to Women named Phyllis Y. Nichols as one of 30 remarkable women who have impacted the community in the last 30 years.
Nichols is the recipient of the 2016 Lizzie Crozier French Leadership Award presented by the East Tennessee Women’s Leadership Council.
She is an ardent advocate for excellence and equity in public education specifically focused on equitable education reform and public policy efforts impacting students of color. She co-chaired the task force for Disparities in Educational Outcomes to address disproportions in academic achievement and discipline outcomes in Knox County Schools and is a member of the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition; Knoxville Equity Alliance; and Tennessee Commissioner of Education’s ESSA Accountability Committee.