Nancie Williams: Laurel Ridge Foundation chair, lawyer, innovator ‣ Laurel Ridge Community College
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Nancie Williams: Laurel Ridge Foundation chair, lawyer, innovator

Nancie Williams wears many hats – Laurel Ridge Foundation Board chair, family law attorney, former foster kid and now inventor.

Spending all of her elementary, middle and high school years in and out of foster care, Williams didn’t grow up thinking she would one day practice law. She spent most of her youth in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, but ended up graduating from Rappahannock County High School.

Not sure she’d have a home after aging out of foster care, Williams decided to go to the University of Virginia, where she would be able to have room and board.

A child who was in and out of foster care from kindergarten on might not seem a likely law school candidate, but Williams was fortunate to meet an attorney who would become her mentor during her second year at U.Va.

“He said, ‘You should be a lawyer,’” she recalled. “I thought, ‘You’re crazy.’ I didn’t have any money.”

But, she researched what it would take to go to law school.

“I thought, ‘Why not somebody like me?’” Williams said. “I broke it down small step by small step.”

She graduated from Howard University School of Law in 2005.

After spending a few years as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Front Royal, Williams has spent the past 11 years in private practice, mostly doing family law.

Williams, a mother of two whose husband Arnold chairs the Warren County School Board, has been on Lord Fairfax’s Foundation Board since 2016.

Times have changed since Williams first went off to college. Virginia has started the Great Expectations program at community colleges. Students in Laurel Ridge’s Great Expectations program have access to their own lounge that offers free snacks, printing, computer access and study tables, and receive additional support with advising, financial aid, enrollment and other student services.

“Although I didn’t go to community college, I am a huge fan of it because it’s a great way to go,” she said. “It’s a great transition.”

Williams has been impressed with what she’s seen at Laurel Ridge.

“Laurel Ridge is just a very professional environment,” she said. “They really, really focus on the students and the academics. I think that’s why they’ve had such steady growth over time. I think they provide an invaluable service to the community. I’m really proud to be a part of it. I don’t know of anything that does a better job than the community college system when it comes to making productive individuals.”

In addition to her volunteerism and legal work, Williams is an inventor. She has a patent pending on her latest creation, Shred Cube. The idea was born when she asked the first attorney she worked with how he got rid of his electronic files, knowing that deleting them didn’t really erase them.

“I knew enough about computers to know that a hard drive can be scrubbed,” Williams said.

She knew there had to be a way to overwrite the hard drive, permanently deleting the files. Some technical-minded people she knew said there was software that could be downloaded to do this, but she didn’t trust such software.

“The idea was to have a way to basically replace your paper shredder in your office, but on your computer,” Williams explained.

She partnered with Alex Stieb, owner of Lux Foundation Systems, to create the final product, the Shred Cube. The USB device plugs into a computer, and the desired files can be dragged and dropped into the application and erased. In fact, many files can be shredded at once.

The device just launched, and it’s available for $159.99 on www.shredcube.com.

Williams said the Shred Cube would be useful for “anyone and everyone,” but especially for those in the financial sector, hospitals, lawyers and doctors.

Learn more about the Laurel Ridge Foundation at www.laurelridge.edu/foundation.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.