-content/uploads/2012/09/Jolley_family-1024×682.jpg” alt=”" width=”595″ height=”396″ /> Since the early 1960′s, the Jolley family has maintained a strong presence on the TSU campus beginning with Elease Wright Jolley (second from left). Elease’s children along with various family members followed her footsteps and attended the University. Pictured are her children, Everett (left), Khalisha and Cornelius Vanderbilt Jolley IV. (photo by John Cross, University Relations)
NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – For someone who did not see college as a valuable option after high school, Elease Wright Jolley has surely steered a good number of people in TSU’s way.
“All that mattered to me then was my (high school) sweetheart,” said Jolley. “I was in love. Going to college was the last thing on my mind, much less helping others to do so.”
But thanks to her high school guidance counselor, a cousin and a TSU graduate, along with her “unwavering” mother who saw education as the only option for success, Jolley entered TSU in 1966 earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Education and a master’s in Agricultural Sciences.
And then the floodgate opened. What followed, at Elease’s urging, was a long line of Wright and Jolley family members.
“First it was my brother, my uncle’s children, my aunt’s daughter, my sister’s son, my children and then my brother’s daughter,” Elease said. In all, more than 20 siblings, closed and extended family members of Elease have entered and graduated from TSU over the years.
“They came because of me. I would go home and boast about how great TSU was. I encouraged them to come, and when they came I looked after them,” she said. “TSU was like a family and they loved it.”
Elease’s family members did not just come to TSU, they excelled. Her younger brother, Donald Wright, earned an electrical engineering degree from TSU in 1975. He is the owner of Wright’s Engineering in Houston, Texas.
Donald’s daughter, Xandelyn Wright, became president of the TSU Student Government Association (2007-2008) and graduated with a B.A. in 2008.
Elease’s three children, Everett, Khalisha and Cornelius Vanderbilt Jolley IV, are TSU graduates. Everett works for TSU in the Office of Admission; Khalisha, the first of Elease’s children to enter TSU (January 1997), earned her bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and now works with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department; and Cornelius graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He worked as a teacher and coach in Metro Davidson County for four years. He is currently employed in banking.
“All of my relatives earned their undergraduate degrees, some of them completed graduate and post-graduate work, and they are doing very well as educators, engineers, bankers and business owners. One is a medical doctor and another a lawyer,” she said.
Elease’s long tie to TSU and her love for the institution are not limited to steering her family members into the University’s direction. TSU has also been her employer for more than 39 years. Since 1979 she has been working in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, where she currently serves as Manager of Office Operations and Events.
Elease credits her mother with helping her see the light, which she said, laid the foundation for her to be able to help family members to see the value in not just coming to TSU, but going to college.
“My mother did not even have a high school education, but she understood the need for me to get an education as the only way out. She made sure I did my homework, and when I graduated high school and thought that was it, my mother said, ‘No, you’re going to college,’” Elease said.
Once at TSU, Elease immediately fell in love with the University. “It was like a big family. People cared for each other; teachers were concerned about your wellbeing, and students were exceptionally friendly,” Elease said, rekindling a “special” moment as a new college student.
“I was walking from the Women’s Resident Center (Wilson Hall) going to the Student Center (Sub) when this big guy, Claude Humphries (football player later with the NFL Eagles – about 6 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 275 pounds) came to me and suddenly picked me up, looked in my face and asked me, ‘What is your name?’ Scared, I said Elease.
“After he put me down I was not afraid any more. I felt the football players were just having fun. But that’s how it was on campus. People were approachable. The camaraderie made you feel at home. And that’s the message I passed on about TSU to relatives and others with the potential for college.”
The Coordinator of the Children and Youth Ministry at Nashville’s Temple Baptist Church for 16 years, and more than 25 years as a Graduate Advisor (a volunteer position through her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority) at Fisk University, Elease has also used her connections with children and adolescents to help recruit many other students for her alma mater.
About her plan to ensure that the new generation of Jolleys and Wrights continue to see the benefit of a TSU education as she did, Elease said, “I will continue to spread the word as long as I am alive. This is a great institution and I believe in the quality of a Tennessee State University education.
“For my (high school) sweetheart, my mother had other plans for me, and it did not include him. He went in another direction, and I came to TSU and never looked back. My blood will run BLUE forever.”
Department of Media Relations
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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 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 the Number One University in the state by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu
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Motto: Think, Work, Serve Established: June 19, 1912 Type: Public, HBCU Endowment: $41.7 million Chancellor: John Morgan President: Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover Faculty: 431 Enrollment: 8775 Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States Campus: Urban, 500 acres (2 km²) Former names: Tennessee A&I State Normal School for Negroes (1912); Tennessee A&I State Normal College (1925); Tennessee A&I State University (1951); Tennessee State University (1968) Colors: Reflex Blue and White Nickname: Tigers Athletics: National Collegiate Athletic Association Affiliations: Ohio Valley Conference Web site: www.tnstate.edu Phone: 615-963-5000
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