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Women's Tennis' Willa Manchester: Where Are They Now?
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Women's Tennis' Willa Manchester: Where Are They Now?

She came to Lipscomb from Pulaski, Tennessee, and she found a home at Lipscomb. She turned her involvement on campus into a lifestyle, and today Willa Manchester is Director of Operations and Technology for Northwestern Mutual in Nashville. We learned about her favorite teammate, professor, and campus memory when she sat down this week for a visit with


What years did you compete for Lipscomb? 

I played tennis for Coach Ann Duncan in the spring of 1984, my senior year. 


What teammate was most memorable? 

Patti Bandy and I were both students at Lipscomb – she was a freshman basketball player and I was a senior sports fan – who were “recruited” by Coach Duncan to play tennis. We were not your typical tennis players who, in those days, were reserved and polite on the court. We treated tennis like the team sports we had played, both in terms of our attire and the way we celebrated. We weren’t rude to our opponents, but we fully enjoyed our time together. Patti was such a gifted athlete that she won All-Conference and All-District honors in singles, and she and I came in third in doubles. 


What degrees have you earned? 

I earned a B.S. in Health & Physical Education from Lipscomb in 1984, and I added a Master’s in Education with a focus on Health Promotion and Exercise Science from Vanderbilt in 1986. It turned out to be a very good educational base – I worked at Baptist Hospital in Nashville (now St. Thomas Midtown) for 18 years as a Health & Wellness administrator. 


Why did you attend Lipscomb? 

I came to Lipscomb because I wanted the experience of Christian education, and it was only a little more than an hour’s drive from Pulaski, my hometown. For those reasons, it was my top choice and it ended up being a perfect place for me. 


What is your favorite athletic memory at Lipscomb? 

I don’t remember much about our specific wins and losses, but I clearly remember how much fun Patti and I had playing doubles together. We learned that relationships are as valuable as accomplishments, and the laughs we shared were the best trophies we could ask for. 


What do you remember about Lipscomb campus life during your time here? 

I loved my time on that campus – it was a blast. I lived in the dorm all four years, and I served as an R.A. in Fanning Hall two of those years. I’m not sure how to best say this: I felt as though that was the closest thing to heaven that I would ever get on earth, just in terms of common beliefs, interests, and the care we had for each other. Now, was everybody perfect? Of course not, but although we were from diverse backgrounds and from different places across the country, we were like-minded. I had a great group of friends, some of whom I’m still close to this day, and we cultivated relationships that mean the world to me. 

I also loved campus events, especially Singarama. I got to be in Singarama every year except the year I played tennis, and my group won my sophomore year. We also loved Bison Basketball and Coach Meyer. We never missed a game, and although it was a few years before Lipscomb won the National Championship, we still won a lot of games and had a great time. 


What is the most valuable lesson you learned in your time at Lipscomb? 

There were plenty of good lessons to be learned on that campus in my time there, but I suppose the most valuable to me is recognizing the fact that despite the differences people bring to the table – backgrounds, financial situations, family circumstances, and more – a common thread like a love of God is a bond that can overcome all the differences. 


Who were your favorite professors? 

I enjoyed several, but Dr. Alex Swang stands out to me. I certainly wasn’t an Accounting major, but I took a few classes under him, and I remember his telling us the importance of budgeting your contribution for God’s work at the top of your expenses instead of waiting to see what might be left over. He also stressed to us that we GET to go to worship, we don’t HAVE to go to worship. He also quoted: “Be sure your sins will find you out.” It applies to all walks, but he used it to encourage us to practice ethical behavior at all times and in all settings. Dr. Swang was a master at teaching accounting, yet within those lessons he had the powerful ability to weave in life lessons that benefit all people in all walks of life. 

I also enjoyed Dr. Lynn Griffith, who was always great, and Dr. Marlin Connelly, who was outstanding in freshman Bible. Trish Duty was another favorite – she was such a great teacher and excellent example in so many ways. 


Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Pulaski, Tennessee, in Giles County – just an hour from Nashville. 


What do you do now? 

I’m the Director of Operations and Technology at Northwestern Mutual, a financial services company, and I’ve been here thirteen years. 


Tell us about your family: 

My husband, Ellis, and I have been married nearly 32 years. We have two grown children, Will and Katelyn, plus one son-in-law and two grand dogs. 



  • Favorite food: Steak
  • Favorite TV show or movie: NCIS, Blue Bloods
  • Favorite Bible scripture: Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
  • Favorite sports team: Tennessee Titans (despite their season so far)
  • Person I most admire: Pat Summitt, based on her discipline and her humble beginnings
  • Person I’d most like to meet: Peyton Manning
  • Rather ride or drive? Drive
  • Pick one – salad or dessert: Dessert
  • Dream vacation spot: Italy
  • Early morning or late night person? Late night