Category Archives: Alumni

Memorial Service Planned for Noted Medical Pioneer and TSU Alumnus, Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A memorial service for Dr. Levi Watkins, noted medical pioneer and TSU alum, will be held in Baltimore on Tuesday, April 21. Dr. Watkins died Friday after a massive heart attack and stroke. He was 70.

The service will be held at 1 p.m., at Union Baptist, 1219 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21217. The phone number to the church is (410) 523-6880. Arrangements are being entrusted to the Redd Funeral Home, 1721 N. Monroe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21217. (Tel: 410-523-1600).

A behind-the-scenes political figure and civil rights activist who broke many racial barriers, Dr. Watkins was the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was known as much for fighting the injustice faced by African-Americans as for his groundbreaking medical work, such as the creation and implantation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator (AID). The device detects irregular heart rhythms and shocks the heart back to life.

“Dr. Levi Watkins changed the world with his passion for medicine,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “The University family extends sincerest condolences to the Watkins family during this difficult time. Dr. Watkins not only impacted the field of medicine, but he also inspired African-Americans to become doctors as he broke down the color barrier at two of the nation’s leading medical institutions. TSU will always remember his service to others, professional achievements, and dedication to his alma mater. He leaves a tremendous legacy that will surely inspire our students and others that follow in his footsteps.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Watkins was outspoken yet humble. He never took his success for granted and worked tirelessly to help create the next generation of African-American doctors and activists.

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Levi Watkins Class Photo 1965-1966 (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Watkins was born in Kansas, the third of six children, but grew up in Alabama, where he got his first taste of the civil rights movement. He met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the age of 8 when he and his family attended Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Dr. King was the pastor.

He attended Tennessee State University as an undergraduate, studying biology. He then made history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he became the first African-American to study and graduate from the school with a medical degree. It was an experience he described over the years as isolating and lonely, but would be the first of many milestones.

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Dr. Watkins started a general surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1971, where he became the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery. He left Baltimore for two years to conduct cardiac research at Harvard Medical School before returning to Johns Hopkins.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331
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 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.

Hundreds Run at TSU to Raise Funds for Education, Celebrate 125th Anniversary of 1890 Land-Grant System

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Nearly 600 participants, including alumni, faculty, students and fans took part in the Second Annual “Big Blue Tiger 5K Run/Walk” at Tennessee State University today to culminate a weeklong celebration of Ag Week, alumni fundraising activities, and the 125th anniversary of the 1890 Land-Grant system.

LandGrant
Representative Brenda Gilmore (fifth from left, front) congratulates 1890 Land-Grant anniversary events organizers minutes before blowing the whistle for the start of the Big Blue Tiger 5K Run/Walk. (Photo by John Cross, Media Relations)

State Representative Brenda Gilmore kicked off the day’s events with a statement at the Gentry Pavilion on the main campus, applauding race participants for their courage and determination to promote healthy living.

“Tennessee is in the top ten when it comes to obesity and ranks high with other ailments in the nation,” Gilmore said. “Your showing here today demonstrates your determination to help eliminate these diseases that affect so many of our people. I am here to encourage you for taking this step to healthy living.”

She thanked the race organizers, including the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, the Office of Alumni Relations, and the TSU National Alumni Association for their collaboration to mark the anniversary of “an event as important as the land-grant system.”

“The 1890 Land-Grant has been a major source of help and resources for Tennessee State University and many of our HBCUs. It is more than fitting for us to join in the celebration of such major milestone as 125 years of a mission that continues to support so many,” Gilmore said.

Following Gilmore’s presentation, runners and walkers took to the starting line for the 3.2-mile trek that took them around campus by way of 33rd Street, Alameda, Walter Davis, up to the Olympic Statue, and to the finish line in Hale Stadium.

winners
TSU Athletics Director, Teresa Phillips, left, congratulates Big Blue Tiger 5K winners Adrienne Hicks, first female finisher, and David Johnson, overall winner. (Photo by John Cross, Media Relations)

Finishing in 21 minutes and 11 seconds, David Johnson, a TSU sophomore and Health Science major, came in first as the overall winner. TSU alum Adrienne Hicks (’02,’06), who finished in 26 minutes 44 seconds, was the first female to cross the finish line. “Please mention that I am an AKA,” Hicks said, as she celebrated with friends.

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The College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences presents a check for $2,500 to the Alumni Foundation for student support. From left are Cassandra Griggs, director of Alumni Relations; Tony Wells, president of the National Alumni Association; Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of CAHNS; Dr. Latif Lighari, associate dean for Extension; and race organizers Charla Lowery and Darnell Crawley. (Photo by John Cross, Media Relations)

As part of the celebration at the finish line, Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of CAHN, presented a check for $2,500 to the Tennessee State University Foundation on behalf of his college. Later, at the “Blue and White Game” in Hale Stadium, the National Alumni Chapter of Beta Omicron also present a check for $37,000 to the Foundation toward the group’s established endowment.

Beta Omicron
National Alumni Association President Tony Wells, and Cassandra Griggs, director of Alumni Relations, receive a check for $37,000 from members of the National Alumni Chapter of Beta Omicron to the Tennessee State University Foundation.

“With tuition going up each year, every cent counts,” said Tony Wells, president of the TSU National Alumni Association, as he thanked donors, supporters and race organizers for their contributions. “These funds and your efforts will help keep needy students in school.”

The day’s events will culminate with the “Legends Game,” also in Hale Stadium, organizers said.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331
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 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.

TSU Mourns the Death of Medical Pioneer, Alumnus Levi Watkins, Jr.

Levi Watkins
Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr.


NASHVILLE, Tenn.
 (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is deeply saddened over the death of Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., a 1966 graduate of the University.   He was 70. The TSU alumnus revolutionized the medial world with the creation and implantation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator (AID). The device detects irregular heart rhythms and shocks the heart back to life.

“Dr. Levi Watkins changed the world with his passion for medicine,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “The University family extends sincerest condolences to the Watkins family during this difficult time. Dr. Watkins not only impacted the field of medicine, but he also inspired African-Americans to become doctors as he broke down the color barrier at two of the nation’s leading medical institutions. TSU will always remember his service to others, professional achievements, and dedication to his alma mater. He leaves a tremendous legacy that will surely inspire our students and others that follow in his footsteps.”

Dr. Watkins enrolled at Tennessee State in 1962, majoring in biology and graduating with honors.   He was also elected student body president at the TSU. In 1966, following graduation, he became the first African-American to be admitted to and to graduate from Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine. Dr. Watkins went onto become the first black chief resident in cardiac surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital after medical school. Watkins fought for equal opportunities in education throughout his career, increasing minority enrollment at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine by 400 percent in four years.

In February 1980, Dr. Watkins performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator and would go on to develop several different techniques for the implantation of the device. Watkins also helped to develop the cardiac arrhythmia service at Johns Hopkins where various new open-heart techniques are now being performed to treat patients at risk of sudden cardiac death.

In 2013, Dr. Watkins retired from John Hopkins after four decades. He received the Thurgood Marshall College Fund award for excellence in medicine in 2010.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331
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 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.

TSU to Celebrate Best and Brightest Students During University Honors Convocation April 13

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When it comes to academic achievement and excellence at Tennessee State University, Carla Gibbs and Lauren Thomas are part of an exclusive club.

As members of the University Honors Program, since entering TSU as freshmen four years ago, Gibbs, a Biology major from Miami, and Thomas, from Memphis, Tennessee, majoring in Mass Communications, have not averaged below a 3.0 grade point average.

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Carla Gibbs

Gibbs hold a 3.76 GPA and is a MARC Scholar, a National Institute of General Medical Sciences program designed to increase the number of minority scientists. She plans to attend Meharry Medical College to study internal medicine. For Thomas, she has already received graduate study offers from Northwestern University, Seattle University and Boston University to study public relations and management after a two-year commitment with Teach for America.

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Lauren Thomas

Gibbs and Thomas are part of more than 2,400 of the University’s best and brightest students who will be honored Monday, April 13, 9:30 a.m., when Tennessee State University holds its annual Honors Convocation in Kean Hall. TSU President, Dr. Glenda Glover, will be the keynote speaker.

According to Dr. D. McGahey, associate director of the University Honors Program, the 2,402 students with GPAs of 3.0 and above, is an 11 percent increase over the 2,016 who were honored last year. He said 92 of this year’s honorees have “perfect scores” of 4.0 GPAs, while 356 maintain GPAs between 3.75 -4.0.

“We are really excited about these outstanding students,” said Dr. Coreen Jackson, director of the Honors Program. “They are an example of what hard work is all about. We are excited to give them this well-deserved honor.”

Among those who will be honored are Honors Program Scholars, those on the Dean’s List, members of the University-Wide Honor Societies, Student Leadership Awards, the President’s List Scholars, and the Top Graduating Seniors. The ceremony will also include the presentation of private scholarship awards, such as the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331
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 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.

2015 Ag Week to Commemorate 125th Anniversary of 1890 Land-Grant System

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – This year’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences Week will culminate with a Health Walk commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890, which created the land-grant system for universities and colleges including Tennessee State University.

Gilmore
State Representative Brenda Gilmore, a TSU alum and strong supporter, will make the opening statement at this year’s Ag Week in front of the new Agricultural and Biotechnology Building, at 8 a.m., Saturday, April 11.

On Saturday, April 11 at 8 a.m., the ceremony will kickoff in front of the Agricultural and Biotechnology Building on the main campus, with an opening statement by State Representative Brenda Gilmore, followed by the Health walk.

The 1890 land-grant system came into being with the signing of the Second Morrill Act for residents in primarily southern and border states who, because of their race, were denied admission to the publically-funded land-grant institutions that were founded in 1862. TSU, which was founded in 1912 as the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial Normal School, became the designated recipient of Tennessee’s portion of 1890 land-grant funds in 1913.

The 125th anniversary observance event is part of a yearlong celebration among the 19 Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities in the United States. The event will also include a national celebration in Washington, D.C. in July.

“The 1890 land-grant universities are a major education resource for the nation, and continue to be a key source for African-American leaders who render valuable service to their communities, the nation, and the world,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.

For more information on the 1890 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities, visit www.1890universities.org.

Below is schedule of other events marking this year’s CAHNS Week:

  • Monday, April 6: Student Day
    • 9:30 – 10 — Refreshments
    • 10 – 2 — 1890 Land-Grant Celebration Agriculture Career Fair
    • 12 – 2 — Student Cookout
  • Tuesday, April 7: Ag & Env Sciences Day
    • 8 – 9:30 — Continental Breakfast (Lawson)
    • 9:30 – 10:30 — Guest Speakers (Farrell-Westbrook)
    • 11 – 12 — Demonstrations
    • 1:30 – 3 Lab Tours
    • 3 – 5 — Student Professional Development Workshop (AITC)
  • Wednesday, April 8: Biological Sciences Day
    • 8:30 – 9:25 — Registration
    • 9:30 – 10:30 — Guest Speakers (McCord 206)
    • 10:30 – 12 — Tours and Poster Exhibit
    • 1 – 2:30 — Program (Floyd Payne Forum 210)
    • 2:30 – 3:30 – Reception
  • Thursday, April 9: Chemistry Day
    • 8:30 – 9:30 — Registration & Refreshments (Boswell 106)
    • 9 – 12 — Chemistry Career Fair (Boswell 122)
    • 9:15 – 10 — Tours
    • 11:15 – 12:15 — Chemistry Challenge (Boswell 12)
    • 12 – 2 — Poster Presentations
    • 2:20 – 3:45 — Guest Speaker (Boswell 12)
  • Friday, April 10: College Recognition Day
    • 12 – 2 — Awards Luncheon (Farrell-Westbrook 118)
    • Saturday: 1890 Land-Grant 125th Anniversary Healthwalk
    • 7 -8 — Registration and set-up
    • 8 – 10 — 5k and Health Walk
    • 10 -11 — Fellowship and Awareness Campaign
  • Wednesday, April 15: Family and Consumer Sciences Week of the Young Child
  • 9 – 11 — North Nashville Childcare Centers Community Event (Ag Complex Circle)Department of Media Relations
    Tennessee State University
    3500 John Merritt Boulevard
    Nashville, Tennessee 37209
    615.963.5331
    About Tennessee State UniversityWith 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 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.

Tennessee State University Lady Tigers Honored with Resolution at State Capitol

Courtesy: Tennessee State Sports Information

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With a rousing welcome, the Tennessee State University women’s basketball team was today honored at the State Capitol for winning the 2015 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship.

OVC Champs
The Lady Tigers received a standing ovation as they entered the House Chamber at the State Capitol. Among those receiving the team and Coach Larry Inman, right, front, were Representative Brenda Gilmore, left, Representative Harold Love Jr., and House Speaker Beth Harwell.

The Lady Tigers were escorted into the House Chambers and celebrated with a standing ovation by the Tennessee House of Representatives. Once the team, coaches and administrators made it to the front of the room, Representative Harold M. Love, Jr., himself a TSU alum, presented the team with a Resolution for their accomplishments.

“When you talk about student athletes and the achievements that they make on and off the court, I think it is good for us to recognize them,” Love said “The Lady Tigers were not slated to win the OVC because of the other teams that maybe had better records or were presumed to be the champions, but to have the determination to go into the tournament and not let the other teams intimidate them is a testament to how we should live our lives… Not being intimidated by the circumstances we’re faced with and to keep on striving and pushing to achieve our goals.”

After the Resolution was read and presented to the team, Head Coach Larry Inman addressed the House. “This is such a great honor. The ladies on this team are about more than just basketball. They are good students in the classroom and in life. They are all going to be very successful people serving the communities that they represent. And what representatives they were for Nashville and the state of Tennessee.”

Women's Basketball-10
Senator Thelma Harper, an alum and die-hard Tiger fan, in hat, joins Representative Brenda Gilmore, Coach Larry Inman, and TSU Assistant Vice President for Public Relations and Communications Kelli Sharpe for a photograph with the team in front of the State Capitol.

 

As the Lady Tigers left the Capitol, they were congratulated by a number of Tennessee State supporters and alumni, including Senator Thelma Harper and Representative Brenda Gilmore, who took photos with the team.

“I’m very proud of these young ladies who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak,” Inman added. “They’ve worked extremely hard and have been very successful. Their lives have touched so many and I’m so proud of them and what they’ve accomplished. I’m thankful to the Legislative body of Tennessee that recognized that.”

Tennessee State defeated UT Martin on March 7 in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship to claim the program’s first OVC crown in 20 years.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331
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 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.

TSU Alum Named Regional Teacher of the Year

Whitney Bradley (courtesy photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – An alumna from Tennessee State University was recently named one of the best teachers in the state, selected by her peers as one who is, “leading the charge and making a real difference for students.”

Whitney Bradley, a teacher at Bailey STEM Magnet Middle School in Nashville, was named Teacher of the Year at her school and will compete for the Metro Nashville Public Schools district-wide Middle School Teacher of the Year. She was also named the Teacher of the Year for the Tennessee’s Mid-Cumberland region and will compete for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award later this year.

“I am humbled,” said Bradley after winning these awards. “It is a blessing to bring positive attention to the school and to this community. I am honored because people count out our students and staff all the time and now we get to celebrate the goodness of Bailey Middle School and urban educators.”

Bradley, who graduated from TSU in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, is in her second year as an eighth grade team leader at Bailey. She has also held positions at White Creek High School, and served as co-director of Camp Wisdom Summer enrichment program.

Bradley said that for her, teaching is a calling or a ministry of sorts. She loves working with the, “least of these,” because they need it the most.

“I love to see my (students) smash the menial expectations placed on them just because of their backgrounds or life circumstances,” she added. “They are lights and when they own it, I love it.”

Bradley is an instructional leader at Bailey, which allows her to work with students, and help mentor and lead a group of her colleagues to improve instructional practice through the, “Learning Through Practice” approach.

“This approach I can attribute to my days at TSU,” Bradley said. “Tennessee State taught me the value of professional collaboration and networking. I believe in highlighting the good in my team members so that we all shine together.

Working as a team allows teachers to teach to their own strengths. We hold each other accountable. “We work together to make sure the students understand the content.”

She said she also learned valuable “life lessons” at TSU, which she carried into the classroom, specifically citing Dr. Samantha Curtis, director of the Write program, who taught her about time management and not to forget what is important to her personally.

“It’s all about pacing,” said Bradley. “Dr. Curtis taught me that everyone doesn’t want 100 percent of me 100 percent of the time. That lesson has been invaluable in my classroom and at home. I love my students and give my all when I am teaching, but I still have some love left over for my son and loved ones at the end of the day. Its all about balance.”

All Teachers of the Year, including Bradley, will be celebrated at a formal dinner and awards ceremony May 11 at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena, where district-level winners will be chosen.

 

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

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 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.

TSU Leader Launches “Walk with the President” to Promote Healthy Living on Campus

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.
(TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover is launching “Walk with the President,” starting Monday morning, March 2 in an effort to promote healthy habits and fitness on campus. The walk will take place each Monday around the track at Hale Stadium, beginning at 6 a.m.

She is calling on faculty, staff and students to join her in this initiative.

“This effort is geared toward us encouraging each other to live much healthier lives,” Dr. Glover said. “Earlier this year we started this effort in our campus cafeteria and dining services by offering more green and vegetable choices. ‘Walk with the President’ is just a continuation of that effort.”

The Director of the Wellness Center at TSU, Gerald Davis II, called “Walk with the President” a great idea that will give students, faculty and staff “another avenue” to engage in cardiovascular activities.

“This will help them to relieve stress and weight loss in maintaining good health,” he said.

Solving the issue of obesity and unhealthy dieting is a national challenge, and TSU, as an educational institution, has a major role is battling this epidemic, the president noted.

“The lack of regular forms of exercise is a major risk factor in developing illnesses and other forms of disease,” she said.

Studies support the President’s assertion. A recent National Institutes of Health study gives an overwhelming evidence that proves the notion that reductions in daily physical activity are primary causes of chronic diseases.

In Tennessee, the situation is even dire. The state now has the fourth highest adult obesity rate in the nation, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, published in 2013. Tennessee’s adult obesity rate is 33.7 percent, up from 25.6 percent in 2004 and from 11.1 percent in 1990.

“We know ‘Walk with the President’ will not solve all of our problems, but it is a beginning and I am asking all of our faculty, staff, students and anyone else who is interested to join us in this worthy cause for healthy living,” Dr. Glover said.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

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 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.

Tennessee State University Alum and NASA Engineer Receives Director’s Commendation Award for Outstanding Contribution

NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, right; and Deputy Director Kirk Shireman, left, congratulate Ron Cobbs after presenting him with the NASA-JSC Director’s Commendation Award, during a ceremony recently in the Teague Auditorium at the center.
NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, right; and Deputy Director Kirk Shireman, left, congratulate Ron Cobbs after presenting him with the NASA-JSC Director’s Commendation Award, during a ceremony recently in the Teague Auditorium at the center. (Courtesy photo)


NASHVILLE, Tenn.
(TSU News Service) – A Tennessee State University alumnus and NASA engineer has been recognized for outstanding contribution to the agency.

Ron Cobbs, a 1989 TSU graduate with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and avionics chief engineer assigned to the International Space Station operations, recently received the NASA Johnson Space Center Director’s Commendation Award.

The award, the highest honor given by the NASA-JSC administrator, recognizes the center’s civil servants with “significant” contribution toward the mission and operations of the JSC.

Last year, Cobbs’ input was helpful in identifying the cause of a space suit malfunction during a spacewalk in July. Although Cobbs was not part of the official Extravehicular Mobility Unit (space suit) investigating team, he was asked to “look into” the situation because the problem “appeared to be electrical.”

Ron Cobbs, International Space Station Avionics Chief Engineer and TSU graduate, helped NASA engineers identify the cause of a serial interface issue with a spacesuit that malfunctioned during a spacewalk on July 16. (courtesy photo)
Ron Cobbs, International Space Station Avionics Chief Engineer and TSU graduate, helped NASA engineers identify the cause of a serial interface issue with a spacesuit that malfunctioned during a spacewalk on July 16, 2013. (courtesy photo)

“I discovered that the problem was a systems problem relative to operational use of the serial port on the laptop side of the suit,” said Cobbs, after investigating the problem. As a result of his findings and recommendation, the procedures for the astronauts were rewritten and retested, subsequently leading to identifying the problem.

Saying that he is “deeply honored” to receive the Administrator’s Award from NASA-JSC, Cobbs, who has been with NASA for nearly 30 years, credits his parents and his TSU preparation for his career success.

“My parents always taught me to work hard and always do the right thing,” said Cobbs, who also holds a master’s degree in Space Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. “They taught me to believe in myself, have faith and shoot for the moon.”

Shooting for the moon is what Cobbs has been doing since. As avionics chief engineer, his role is to ensure that engineers in the NASA Directorate adhere to the “right processes.” He also supports project managers during the design, development, test and evaluation of projects that require electronics and/or software for operational use.

“I also support Failure Investigation Teams whenever their failures or anomalies on the Space Station need to be resolved. I also sit on several Space Station program boards to provide concurrence representing engineering on all proposed forward plans and action that will be implemented,” Cobbs noted.

“Ronald Cobbs is a true example of an electrical engineering graduate with passion for life-long learning and professional growth,” Dr. Satinderpaul Singh Devgan, professor and head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said of his former student, when information came out about Cobbs’ spacesuit malfunction intervention.

Cobbs joined NASA at the Johnson Space Center immediately after graduating TSU. He has moved through the ranks from design engineer, systems engineer to now ISS avionics chief engineer.

“I think Ron Cobbs’ achievement at NASA is a great story,” added Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

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 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.

To Succeed, Learn to Keep Pace with Fast-Changing World, TSU Commencement Speaker Tells More than 500 Graduates

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President Glenda Glover presents a plaque of appreciation to Shannon A. Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource and Diversity Officer at FedEx Express, who served as the keynote speaker for the fall commencement at TSU.


NASHVILLE, Tenn.
(TSU News Service) – Saying that today’s fast-changing world requires people who can adapt, Tennessee State University fall commencement speaker told nearly 500 graduates Saturday that to be successful they must be ready to “run when the sun comes up,” to keep pace.

“Today’s reality is that the world is changing faster,” said Shannon Brown, senior vice president and chief human resource and diversity officer at FedEx Express. “Economies and their enterprises are moving at a very fast pace and people who are slow to adapt will be left behind.”

Brown, recognized by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America,” paralleled his remarks to the “gazelle” and the “lion” in Christopher McDougal’s book, “Ready to Run,” where the gazelle must outrun the fastest lion or be killed, or the lion must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running,” said the FedEx executive, who, in 30 years, worked his way from a package handler to become one of the top executives at the world’s largest express transport company.

He said in a fast-track world with constant technological advances and changes that have revolutionized all aspects of industry and human thinking, people who are slow to catch on and prepare for the future will be left behind.

He applauded the graduates for their determination to complete their university journey, urging them to use that same determination to press their way forward.

“As you enter this fast changing world, surround yourselves with good mentors; they can help you make the transition from one environment to the other; don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; and commit to being lifelong learners,” Brown told the graduates.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native who said his job as the highest ranking human resource and diversity officer at FedEx is to keep employees engaged and satisfied, named charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, courage, dependability, flexibility, judgment and respect for others as “time-tested” leadership principles that will keep them competitive in their chosen fields.

“It is about believing that every individual brings value to the table; and do not forget to give back to the community,” Brown added.

Leaitrice Medina
President Glenda Glover congratulates Leatrice Medina for receiving the Academic Excellence Award. The award is given to a graduating senior with the highest GPA of 4.0 among her classmates. Medina received her degree in Psychology.

TSU President Glenda Glover, herself a Memphis native, thanked Brown for what she called, “a thought-provoking” speech, and congratulated the graduates for their accomplishment.

“You have endured and prepared yourself to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourselves. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”

More than 500 graduates received degrees in various disciplines at the ceremony in the Gentry Center Complex. Among officials who attended the program was Dr. Wendy Thompson, vice chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, at the Tennessee Board of Regents.