"Once in a generation of educational leaders emerges one who naturally but passionately motivates fellow teachers to lead their students to achievement levels never before realized. That person is Dr. Oscar Underwood." - Dr. Lowell Madden, Former Director of Elementary and Secondary Education and Teacher Education at Indiana University - Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Indiana
Dr. Oscar Nelson Dowdell-Underwood was the first African American Indiana Teacher of the Year, Inherent Power Leadership Developer, Educator, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Pastor. He is passionately committed to unlocking personal inherent power in the lives of every individual.
Dr. Oscar Nelson Dowdell-Underwood is a pastor, educator, activist, author, motivational speaker, and public intellectual. In 1982, he left a career in suburban education to accept a principalship at a failing, low-income, inner-city elementary school. There, he dared to lead a team of dedicated teachers who together proved that achievement is not a matter of race or economics, but passion and determination. Within one year of implementing what is known as the “Underwood Model,” students' achievement scores, engagement and perceptions of mattering skyrocketed and student violence and apathy plummeted. These students, who were among some of the lowest achievers in the nation, were now performing at unprecedented levels. After, 41 years later, his life’s work is still centered on educating students and eradicating educational inequalities and disenfranchisement. He is the founder and President of Cornerstone Christian College Preparatory School International and Cornerstone Christian Bible College International.
In 1998, Dr. Nelson Dowdell-Underwood testified before the United States Congressional Committee on Small Businesses regarding his education strategies for maximizing achievement among K-12 students. His proven pedagogy as outlined in his book, Assassination of Human Potential, which describes a positive correlation between student achievement and cultivation of the “5 environments”- verbal, intellectual, social, emotional and physical. In Burden of Hope: Transition, Retention and Collegiate Black Men, he presents groundbreaking research that impacts the entire paradigm by which postsecondary education regards collegiate Black men. In it, Dr. Nelson Dowdell-Underwood challenges post-secondary institutions to maximize the scholastic achievement of collegiate Black males by engaging their inherent power, need and desire to succeed, rather than relating to them from a deficit perspective.
Dr. Oscar Nelson Dowdell-Underwood’s work has resulted in many distinctions, including being named the first African American Indiana Teacher of the Year in 1977 and Indiana's Nominee for National Teacher of the Year. In the Fall of 2018, He received the prestigious Claes Noble Educator of Distinction Award. He is a sought-after conference speaker and education consultant. He is also politically active – challenging educational policies that marginalize students, particularly poor and minority students. He believes that all children deserve the dignity of an excellent education. Dr. Nelson Dowdell-Underwood most enjoys the time he spends teaching. His unyielding commitment to education and human development has made an unparalleled positive impact on the millions of students who affectionately refer to him as “Doc” or as “the teacher who changed my life.”
Dr. Nelson Dowdell-Underwood holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Indiana University, an M.S. in Educational Administration and Curriculum Development from Indiana University, a Ph.D. and Ed.S in Higher Education Leadership, Administration and Foundations from Indiana State University, and a Ph.D. in Human Potential Coaching from Cornerstone Christian Bible College International. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his wife and children.