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The September Alumni Connection 2023 – CLICK HERE for the Alumni Email

Vanguard Alumni Connection - September 2023

Reuel & Liz Nash ('75) 

Cutting edge might be an overused term in the age of technology — but it absolutely describes the careers of two of Vanguard’s first graduates, Liz and Reuel Nash (‘75).

Reuel, a Google staff software engineer, was involved in the creation of Google Earth and is a tech lead for imagery and terrain processing for both Google Earth and Google Maps. 

“Google infrastructure is developed by thousands of other software engineers — all of them trying to make my software work better, faster and more efficiently,” Reuel said. ”I learn something every day.”

Liz, a retired minister in the United Church of Christ, made her commitment to ministry before it was common for women to wear the cloth.

“I think my story is in some ways pretty typical of women at the time,” Liz said. “Encouragement to go to college, etc., but few real role models to pursue a career to which you feel called that was not historically one women were allowed or encouraged to pursue.” 

After graduation in 1975, the couple took off for Texas A&M University where Liz earned  a BS and MS in Agricultural Economics — and Reuel earned a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering.

Next, Liz went to the University of California — Berkeley where she pursued a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics, but decided not to complete it when at the thesis stage and instead went to seminary. Liz earned a M.Div from the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley and was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 1989. She served churches in Stockton, Calif., and Houston, Texas from 1987-1993. Later, in 2005, she earned a PhD in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union. She served as association minister for the Brazos Association and Heart of Texas Association of the United Church of Christ from 2006 to her retirement in 2021. 

“I had long felt a call to some kind of ministry work and religious study,” Liz said. “There were few role models for women in ministry, and almost no encouragement or support for that until we joined a church with a woman who was one of the pastors. She affirmed the call I had long felt, and then I made the change to go to seminary, surprising the people I worked with at Cal Berkeley, since at that time, I had completed course work and the usual PhD exams, identified my thesis topic, and had funding to pursue it.  Liz said what she loves most about ministry is the people.

“That’s so central to ministry,” she said. “I have loved teaching and learning. I enjoy being challenged to learn more and go much deeper in faith and ethics.” 

Beginning in 1980, Reuel started working his way up the ranks as a programmer in the software industry — at the likes of Hewlett Packard, Mips Computer Systems, Silicon Graphics and Intrinsic Graphics. In 2003, he took on the role of performance architecture lead at nVidia and made his way to Google in 2007.

One of the things Reuel said set him apart from others was his combination of electrical engineering and computer science knowledge.

“Joe Flowers and Jerry Vincent took me to Texas A&M to meet Computer Science department folks,” Reuel said. “The CS prof realized from what I said that Electrical 

Engineering was really what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed the EE, but took as many CS classes as I could. Once I was working, I was one of the few EE’s who could program. Later, I became one of the few programmers who knew how the hardware actually worked.” 

For students interested in software, Reuel recommends taking as many different types of programming classes as you can. 

“Learn to work on group projects,” he said. “Learn how to lead and how to follow.” 

He described himself as a problem solver and he enjoys that, in his line of work, there are new problems every day. 

The same can be said of Liz’s profession. With the pandemic recovery and the longer term decline in church attendance, Liz said “everything” has to be rethought about church life. 

“Many believe it is a historic shift akin to the Reformation,” she said.. “We also are addressing climate change and what we are called to do to preserve the Earth, a relatively new challenge at least for many in Christian theology and ethics. We are learning that the church is a home meant for people that are different from each other, but also have more in common than we would once have been able to imagine. We are challenged to help people, and ourselves, find our ways through the current polarization in society, which is also part of church life.”

To young people considering a career in ministry, Liz said it’s definitely a calling.

“You won’t get rich,” she said. “You will be stretched to discern your theology and faith – and to articulate it – in seminary, and you will face plenty of challenges, but it is deeply rewarding.”

Liz said Vanguard’s self-paced learning methods prepared her for success.

“When Vanguard started, it was self paced with contract grades,” Liz said. “You pretty much taught yourself, with substantial guidance from the teacher-written learning packets and with the assistance and mentoring of teachers. It took self motivation and lots of work to get through the courses and finish. We were working hard our senior year, while our friends in other schools were mostly taking it easy. Ironically, that was kind of the perfect way to enter college, where you have to keep up and do the work on your own.”  Reuel agreed. “We had to learn to work on our own with the self-paced study we had to do,” he said. “That’s really helpful in college, and most of what happens on the job.”

The couple both named Fran Vick as a favorite teacher. “She was like the mama to our senior class, and she did a wonderful job of both preparing us for college writing and inspiring a greater love of literature,” Liz said.

Reuel said Joe Flowers was one of his favorites because he taught his favorite class, Computer Science.

As far as advice for today’s Vikings, Liz suggests finding ways to be interested in lots of different things.

“Academically, that will really make college much more enjoyable, and it will make your life richer,” she said. “Also, realize things will change – this school does and will change, you may change what you think you want to pursue in life, and life brings plenty of change. Embrace it. Be open to the people you encounter who are different from you. You will grow so much and your life will be richer if you can do that.”

Reuel’s advice is simple:

“Don’t burn your bridges,” he said. “Every job transition I’ve made has been because of connections made with coworkers.” 

Liz and Reuel have been married for 44 years. They have three daughters. Ellie (Eleanor), Annie (Ann), and Becky (Rebecca) — and two grandchildren.