Born in Houston, Texas, Nancy Scanlan graduated from St Stephen's School in Austin, Texas and then went on to Smith College in Northampton, MA where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Art History. She did graduate work at Columbia University before returning to Austin to teach at St. Stephen's. Following a year of study in Paris, France, she became the Assistant Director of Kiko Art Gallery in Houston. After her marriage, she returned to Austin and worked as a freelance portrait photographer and fine art photographer. She has been a fine art photographer for the past 25 years.
She has also been a community volunteer, serving on many Boards including Laguna Gloria Art Museum, St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Women and Their Work and the Mental Health Association of Travis County. She currently sits on the Board of KMFA Classical Radio as well as the Advisory Councils of Conspirare, the Center for Women's and Gender Studies, the UT Department of Theater and Dance and Mexiarte Museum. She also served as President of the Tuesday Club for the year 2001/2002.
Scanlan has two children - Laura, an attorney and mother of two daughters, and Wilson, owner of Verve Fine Arts gallery in Santa Fe, who has two sons and one daughter.