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Honors Convocation Speaker Obie McKenzie Challenges Honors Students to make wise decisions, ‘dare to dream’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Honors Convocation speaker Obie McKenzie challenged TSU students to make wise decisions, and “dare to dream.”

McKenzie, named by Black Enterprise magazine as one the 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street, is managing director of BlackRock, Inc., the largest publicly traded investment management firm in the United States.

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Honors Convocation speaker Obie McKenzie, TSU President Glenda Glover, and TSU Presidential Scholar Jaquantey Bowen

McKenzie joined TSU faculty and staff, as well as students’ family and friends, in honoring the university’s best and brightest in Kean Hall gym on Tuesday.

McKenzie, a 1967 TSU graduate, reflected on his younger days, noting that he enjoyed college life, but also took his course work seriously, which helped him gain success in the workplace. He also said he took control of his thoughts, and advised students to do the same, because that’s where their “destiny begins and where their dreams are actualized.”

“Be careful of words that come out of your mouth and take control of your thoughts because (they are) your most important possession,” said McKenzie, a former TSU Student Government Association president, who is currently on TSU’s board of trustees.

He also encouraged them to be bold.

“Please dare to dream,” McKenzie said. “Your dreams begin today.”

More than 3,330 students on the Dean’s List, or students with 3.0 GPAs or higher, were honored at the convocation. Of that number, 287 made the President’s List. These are students with perfect 4.0 GPAs.

Presidential Scholar Jaquantey Bowen, who graduates in December, was among those honored.

Bowen wants to put an end to heart disease, which has killed many of his relatives and is responsible for nearly 610,000 deaths in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He plans to become a cardiovascular surgeon, and he’s well on his way.

With a perfect 4.0, Bowen has set his sights on Harvard University. He has been accepted into the highly competitive Harvard BWH Stars Program for Summer Research, an intensive, eight-week program in research methods and practice for underrepresented minority college and first-year medical students.

During Bowen’s freshman year at TSU, just around his 18th birthday, his maternal grandfather died from heart disease, the same disease that claimed his paternal grandfather’s life and several others in his family.

“From that day forward, I vowed to put an end to heart disease,” said Bowen, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in biology with concentration in cell and molecular biology and a minor in chemistry. “I solidified my career choice to become a cardiovascular surgeon. I have strived for excellence and maintained nothing less than an ‘A’ in every course I have taken.”

Also honored were members of the University-Wide Honor Societies, Student Leadership Awards recipients, the Top Graduating Seniors, and recipients of private scholarship awards, such as the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship, named after the founder of the Honors Program.

“Today we are honoring honors students and recognizing you for your academic achievement,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Honors classes are difficult and require a lot of research and time. For 53 years, TSU has been committed to mentoring and motivating students to pursue academic excellence through the Honors Program. We thank you for excellence.”

McKenzie told the students that current geopolitics and technological changes demand that they remain focused to be successful.

“If your mind is messed up with a whole bunch of thoughts that are not going to contribute to where it is that you are trying to go, your destiny is being messed up by what you are thinking,” McKenzie said. “Remember, your word becomes your action; your action becomes your habits; your habits become your character; and your character becomes your destiny.”

Dr. Coreen Jackson, interim dean of the Honors College, thanked McKenzie for inspiring the students, and lauded them for their achievements.

“These students are an example of what hard work is all about,” she said. “We are excited to give them this well-deserved honor.”

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 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.