NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – There are many things that mothers and daughters share at some point in their lives. Mothers enjoy the experience of lending their favorite earrings to their daughters to wear during prom. Many can’t wait to pass down the family heirloom handed from given generation-to-generation as “something old” for the doting daughter-bride. And, when their daughters have children of their own, mothers adore nothing more than handing out motherly advice, sharing family recipes and caring for their grandchildren.
These are just some of the joys of a mother-daughter relationship every mother imagines. But one Tennessee State University mother has experienced a little extra special moment that will provide a lifetime of memories for both mother and daughter.
Last spring, Nashville native Samantha Thomas was elected the 2014-2015 Miss Tennessee State University. Why was this so special? Because Patsy Whitmon Thomas, Samantha’s mother, wore the crown 33 years earlier as the 1981-1982 Miss Tennessee State University. It marked the first time in the university’s history that a mother-daughter legacy has worn the coveted crown in one of the university’s top student leadership roles.
“Truthfully, I did not know whether she was going to win or lose,” Patsy said. “I was so torn up about it; I didn’t even make it to the pageant. I was driving when I heard the news and just started crying driving 30 miles per hour on a 70-mile-per hour highway. People were passing me by wondering if I was okay. I felt like this was Divine intervention because I never encouraged or cultivated any of my children to do anything that I or their father did as students. I just never put that kind of pressure on my children.”
Patsy, a three-time graduate of TSU, with bachelor and master degrees in Health and Physical Education, and a doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision, said during her reign as Miss TSU her focus was on addressing accountability and excellence among the student body. She said her daughter has taken her own independent route and has really not asked for advice on how to handle herself as Miss TSU. Patsy said she has witnessed how her daughter is dealing with the leadership role and is very proud of her.
“She [Samantha] is handling it pretty well by herself,” Patsy said. “I simply tell her to listen, respect the opinions of others and to be flexible, which doesn’t mean you have to compromise your standards. It is important we all learn that we can have differences, but not be indifferent.”
Samantha’s path to the Miss TSU post began during her service as Miss Freshman in 2011-2012. She then began working on campus as part of the Student Government Association becoming the only female Representative At-Large elected during her sophomore and junior years. When she decided to run for the position of Miss TSU going into her senior year, she wanted to give her all and said she wanted to demonstrate that the role was “more than a position or title, but a lifestyle.”
“While this is the most memorable year of my college experience, I don’t want to get distracted with the hype of things. I must remember why I’m here – and that’s to get an education,” Samantha said. “My goal is simply to be a positive example. I’d like to be remembered for Sam who did everything for TSU that she could. I want to help TSU and get to know my peers. I want to be known as the person who really worked hard and loved all my fellow students as the individuals they are.”
Patsy remembers fondly her time at TSU. Like her daughter, she was an active part of campus life serving as Miss Junior, as a member of the Student Government Association, being named to Who’s Who, and as an Honors student joining Gamma Beta Phi National Honors Society.
“I feel that other students who have parents who have graduated from TSU should also pursue leadership roles to impact change, and growth for our children – not just African-American children, but globally and to instill the value of family,” she said.
Despite her initial hesitation to attend TSU, because she thought it was too close to home, Samantha said she is glad she made the choice. She has served as a University Ambassador for three years, and is also an Honors student holding memberships in the Phi Eta Sigma, Golden Key, Phi Kappa Phi and National Society of Collegiate Scholars Honor Societies.
“I love TSU, and it [experience] has definitely taught me how to go out there and get it for myself,” Samantha said. “The faculty and staff are so inspirational. They help mold you, and it makes you so ambitious and hungry for success. You learn to exhibit confidence and to be humble in your interactions with others.”
Her stellar academic performance has afforded her the financial support needed to complete her education. For the fourth year, she has received the Academic Higher Achievement Scholarship.
“My scholarship has been the biggest blessing because that hardship is not on me or my family,” said Samantha, a Dental Hygiene major and member of the Undergraduate Student National Dental Association. “I want to go to dental school which is very expensive, so the scholarships I have received at TSU are a blessing for me. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for school.”
The spirit of giving is something the Thomas family has long practiced. Patsy said the family often takes mission trips, and continues to give back to TSU through a scholarship established in her late father’s name. Additionally, Samantha is imparting the importance of giving back to her fellow students as well as the significance of thanking donors.
“Every little bit helps,” she said. “If you can’t write a check for $500, then give $20.”
While both Patsy and Samantha share the glory of the crown, they also share a distinct TSU legacy in other respects. Patsy’s father, the late Sam Whitmon, a 1948 TSU graduate, was a respected educator, coach and former athletics director at the university. He was also instrumental in establishing the university’s baseball team and taught biology for many years. Additionally, the Thomases are part of the tradition of high-stepping majorettes boasting three generations with Patsy’s mother, Dorothy Mallory, a 1950 graduate, dancing for the Big Blue, as well as Patsy during her junior and senior years, and now Samantha as part of the “Sophisticated Ladies.”
“It’s really an honor to be in this position because so many people remember my mom and grandfather,” Samantha said. “It’s great when the alumni make the connection and they start sharing stories about them [my family]. It does my heart good to be associated with people who are remembered so fondly.”
Patsy and Samantha will celebrate in grand style with students, alumni and the community as part of TSU’s Homecoming Week activities during The Coronation for Mr. and Miss TSU. The event will take place Wednesday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m. in Kean Hall, located on the main campus. For more information, call (615) 963-5085.
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About Tennessee State University
With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.