Category Archives: Athletics

TSU Director of Track and Field Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice receives lifetime achievement award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Director of Track and Field Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice is the recipient of the Jimmy Carnes Lifetime Achievement Award.

She received the award from the Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Jan.  8 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“Jimmy Carnes has done a lot for the sport of track and field, and I’m honored that my name is in a conversation with his name,” Cheeseborough-Guice said.

Carnes served as the head coach of the track and field team at the University of Florida before being named head coach of the United States Olympic Team.

Cheeseborough-Guice emerged on the scene in 1975 at age 16, where she won a gold medal in the 200-meter dash in the Pan American Games with a world junior record of 22.77 seconds. She also won the TAC 100-meter championship in a time of 11.13.

The Jacksonville, Fla. native went on to be named to three United States Olympic teams. She placed sixth as a 17-year old in the 100-meter dash in Montreal  in 1976. She qualified for the ill-fated 1980 Olympic team that did not compete because of a boycott. In 1984, at the Los Angeles games, she made Olympic history by running a leg on two gold-medal relay teams and was the silver medalist in the 400-meters.

As a coach, Cheeseborough-Guice has guided TSU to eight Ohio Valley Conference Championships and is an eight-time OVC Coach of the Year honoree.

In 2008, Cheeseborough-Guice was named the sprinter’s coach for the USA Team that competed in the Beijing, China Olympics. USA captured 23 medals that included 10 gold, eight silver and five bronze medals.

In 2009, she served as the women’s head coach for Team USA at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany. Under Cheeseborough-Guice, the team collected 22 medals overall, winning more than any other country to dominate the placing table with 231 points. Team USA registered 10 gold, six silver and six bronze medals, along with several outstanding performances.

During the summer of 2015, the TSU graduate helped guide Team USA as an assistant coach at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. Cheeseborough-Guice worked directly with the women’s sprinters and hurdlers, who took home 10 of the team’s 41 medals at the games.

 

Longtime AP Reporter Joins TSU as Director of Media Relations

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Lucas Johnson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Lucas Johnson, a longtime reporter with the Associated Press, has joined the communications team at Tennessee State University as director of Media Relations. He replaces Rick DelaHaya.

“I am very delighted to announce the addition of Lucas Johnson to our staff as the new director of Media Relations,” Kelli Sharpe, assistant vice president of University Public Relations and Communications, said. “For more than two decades as a reporter with the Associated Press Lucas has established himself as a capable and respected journalist. I am thrilled to have him join our media department.”

Prior to joining TSU, Johnson worked for 24 years with the AP covering local, state and national news. For the last 10 years he covered the Tennessee General Assembly as a beat reporter. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Johnson holds a B.A. in journalism from Middle Tennessee State University.

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 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 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 Robert Covington Excelling in Second Season with NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers

Courtesy: Tennessee State Sports Information

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Tennessee State men’s basketball star Robert Covington is excelling on basketball’s biggest stage as a starter for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Robert Covington
Robert Covington was a decorated player for the Tigers during his four-year career at Tennessee State University. (Courtesy Photo)

After battling injury early in the season, the 6’9, 215-pound forward is averaging 14.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while leading the NBA with 3.2 steals per game. Now in his second season with the 76ers, Covington netted a career-high 28 points to go with a career-best eight steals on Nov. 28 versus the Houston Rockets.

In the 76ers final three games in November, Covington secured six-plus steals, making him the first NBA player to accomplish the feat in three-consecutive games since Alvin Robertson in 1986.

A 2013 graduate of Tennessee State University, Covington split time between the NBA’s Houston Rockets and the NBA D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers in his first season as a professional in 2013-14. The Illinois native played his way to NBA D-League Rookie of the Year accolades, earning a spot on the 76ers roster the following season.

Covington was a decorated player for the Tigers during his four-year career, securing First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference accolades in 2012 and Second Team All-OVC honors in 2011 and 2013.

Current TSU Head Coach Dana Ford coached the now-NBA player during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, when Ford served as an assistant coach. Covington scored 1,749 career points for TSU, good for the eighth most in school history.

Covington and the 76ers were back in action Tuesday with a home game versus the Los Angeles Lakers.

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 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 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 Aristocrat of Bands Selected for the 2016 Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands is preparing to perform once again in the Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase. The band was recently selected in a competitive online voting process in which the nation’s top band contenders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities vied for a spot in the annual showcase.

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TSU Aristocrat of Bands set for its seventh appearance at the Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

TSU was among only eight HBCU bands making the final cut and will gather at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Jan. 30, 2016 to entertain thousands of students, alumni and other fans with their musical talents and showmanship.

Along with Tennessee State, the other bands selected included Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Jackson State University, Lincoln University (PA), Prairie View A&M University, and South Carolina State University. Each band will receive a $20,000 grant from Honda to support their music education programs, and will receive paid travel and lodging accommodations to the Invitational Showcase.

“The Honda Battle of the Bands is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that helps HBCU student musicians showcase their talent and discover their greatness, both on- and off-the-field,” said Steve Morikawa, vice president of Corporate Community Relations, American Honda. “Honda is proud to have a longstanding relationship with America’s HBCUs, and is honored that many students consider this event a highlight of their collegiate experience.”

This will be the seventh appearance for the Aristocrat of Bands at the Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase, having performed in 2003, 2004, 2011, and 2012, 2013, and 2015.

“Our Aristocrat of Bands students work extremely hard academically and as musicians, and we are proud that we have been selected to participate in the Honda Battle of the Bands for yet another year,” said Dr. Reginald McDonald, director of University Bands. “We appreciate all of those who voted for us to be a part of this competition and look forward to presenting a show that lives up to the outstanding Aristocrat of Bands legacy of quality musicianship and energetic showmanship.”

Tickets to the Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase are available for purchase now on the HBOB website, http://www.hondabattleofthebands.com/, and start at just $10.

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 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 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 Joins Minor League Baseball to Host First Diversity Leadership Symposium

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Minor League Baseball® announced Nov. 2 it will host a Diversity Leadership Symposium on Nov. 6-7, 2015, in Nashville, Tennessee. The event will be co-hosted by Tennessee State University and held on its campus.

DLS_2015_SavetheDate_webTSU students are invited to attend the two-day event for a unique look into the business of professional baseball. Attendees will hear from industry leaders, gain insight on strategies to break into the industry and have the opportunity to network with Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball executives. On Saturday, attendees will take a tour of the newly constructed First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds.

“When I created the Minor League Baseball Diversity Initiative, the goal was to attract and retain a diverse workforce,” said Pat O’Conner, president and chief executive officer of Minor League Baseball. “In examining the internal and external needs of our organization, and our industry as a whole, it was clear that diversity was an important piece of the puzzle. I want to thank Tennessee State University for co-hosting this event and providing an outlet for us to reach students.”

“Tennessee State University is excited about our partnership with Minor League Baseball and the opportunities for our students through this collaboration,” said Tennessee State University president Glenda Glover. “TSU students will get a chance to meet the heavyweights of this industry as it relates to sports management and administration as well as sports medicine and physical therapy. It is ideal that we can bridge the gap between classroom curriculum and real life employment experience.”

The symposium aims to engage undergraduate- and graduate-level students through a series of panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities. One of the event’s goals is to increase awareness of baseball as a career option while offering an eye-opening introduction to the career opportunities within the industry. Each year, Minor League Baseball will look to partner with a historically black college and university (HBCU) in the Baseball Winter Meetings™ host city for this symposium. The 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings will be held in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

This is good news for April Bell, a TSU senior Human Performance and Sports Science major. Her dream is to be a sports executive but is not aware of career opportunities for minorities in baseball.

“I am looking forward to this symposium,” Bell said. “My dream is to be an executive, like a manager or a senior-level personnel, but as a female and a minority I am not sure of the chances available to me. I hope to meet and talk with people who can give me some direction.”

The Minor League Baseball Diversity Initiative is a comprehensive, five-category initiative designed to diversify Minor League Baseball by addressing race and gender diversity within its ownership, executive management, staff level employment, fan bases and business-to-business opportunities.

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 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 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 Alumnus, Michael D. Johnson, Jr., Focuses on Helping Youth Reach Their Greatest Potential

Michael D. Johnson
Michael D. Johnson, Jr.

Michael D. Johnson, Jr. has made a career of empowering, connecting and marketing youth culture by exposing his peers and young adults to their untapped potential and unchartered opportunities.

Currently, he is employed with the United States Department of Defense as a Student Training & Academic Recruitment Representative. In this role, he works with students and veterans interested in internship, co-op, scholarship and job opportunities with the federal government.

In September 2015, Johnson participated in Tennessee State University’s Career Development Center’s Fall Career Fair providing information to students on how to hone the skills necessary to bolster their academic and career opportunities. The informational session welcomed all majors and classifications to participate.

He is the founder and president of the National Brotherhood Chain, Inc., an organization focused on linking high school and collegiate men with successful professionals striving to propel African-American men into economic, social and political spheres of brotherhood and power worldwide.

“It is our duty and purpose to keep young brothers encouraged, focused and inspired to keep pushing themselves pass their potential,” according to comments on Johnson’s website. “Programs such as the Brotherhood Chain are specifically designed to grant young brothers those opportunities that are not commonly provided to them.”

Johnson is a Flint, Michigan native who made his way to Tennessee State University in 2010 after being recruited as part of the Men’s Track & Field team, where he later became an Ohio Valley Conference finalist and champion. In addition to his athletic achievements, high scholastic achievement has always been his top priority. In 2014, he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Prior to graduating, he served as Mr. Tennessee State University for the 73rd Administration of the Student Government Association. In 2015, he earned a master’s degree in Criminal Justice, also from TSU. He hopes to enroll in law school in fall 2016 with the goal of establishing his own law firm and becoming a sports/entertainment attorney.

He is an active member of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, 100 Black Men, the Golden Key International Honor Society, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

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 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 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 Celebrates Former National Association Presidents and Alumni Directors During 2015 Homecoming

By K. Dawn Rutledge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – In 2012, Tennessee State University celebrated the milestone of its 100th birthday. It was a special time for the university’s alumni, students, faculty, staff and the community at-large. Now, the university’s alumni have something else to celebrate – a century of excellence – recognizing the achievements of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association and those who have led alumni efforts over the past 100 years.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith (1998-2002)

Established in 1915 in Nashville, the TSUNAA has undergone a number of changes in direction and leadership – all leading to the growth of the association with members across the globe.

As part of the important work of chapters across the country, Tennessee State University is gearing up to salute all alumni for their dedication and support. The university will pay special tribute to those who have given their time in key leadership roles, specifically the former TSUNAA presidents, who will be recognized during 2015 Homecoming as the official Grand Marshals, and the former TSU alumni directors, who will be recognized as honorees.

James Ford
James Ford  (2002-2006)

The idea of an alumni association began to take shape in 1913 when a group of summer-session students anticipated forming such an organization following their graduation. A resolution was drafted formulating the idea of a national organization with elected officers – one president, one general secretary and one treasurer – along with one vice president and one secretary for each town or city. The idea was implemented by 19 members of the 1915 graduation class and 11 members of the 1914 class – all forming the first Alumni Association in June. Meredith G. Ferguson served as the association’s first national president.

After the institution changed from normal school to college status in 1922, President William Jasper Hale established an Office of the Alumni on campus in 1923. R.B.J. Campbell (’18) served as the first executive and corresponding secretary. Under the reorganization, Christopher C. Purdy (’22) became president, leading the association until 1928.

Ada Jackson
Ada jackson  (2006-2008)

“As an alum of Tennessee State, I am excited to celebrate the contributions of our alumni during the 2015 Homecoming celebration” said Cassandra Griggs (’93), director of the TSU Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. “Each day I have the opportunity to connect with some outstanding alumni who are making the university proud through their professions, in their communities and around the world.”

Over the years, the TSUNAA has grown into a network of more than 3,000 national members in 40 active chapters. The association has been instrumental in supporting the institution its graduates fondly call their ‘alma mater’ by volunteering their time to recruit students, raise scholarship funds, and help to promote the academic and social advantages of a TSU education.

Leonard Stephens
Leonard Stephens (2008-2012)

Mary Knowles (’54, ’65), served as TSUNAA’s president from 1986 to 1990. She said she never intended to be president, but was “[I]pushed into it. I didn’t have sense enough to say no,” she laughed.

Despite her hesitancy to take on the highest-ranking leadership role for TSU alumni, Knowles’ tenure saw traction with a major focus on increasing membership and making sure people knew the benefits of a TSU education.

“We really tried to encourage chapters to give money to the TSU Foundation for student scholarships,” Knowles said. “We also spent a lot of energy encouraging alumni to recruit students to come to the school.”

Knowles worked at Meharry Medical College as registrar and director of admissions. She left in 1969 and headed to St. Louis and worked with Harry Stokes St. College as registrar and teacher certification before retiring in 2000 after 31 years.

“I know if it were not for my TSU education, I would not have had the life I have had, and the advantages and the opportunities to do what I wanted to do to be successful,” Knowles said.

James H. Ford, Jr. (’69), who served as TSUNAA president from 2002-2006, said under his administration he served two TSU presidents – Dr. James A. Hefner from 2002-2005, and Dr. Melvin N. Johnson from 2005-2006. Ford said that with the university’s Centennial so close at the time, he wanted to focus on preparing for that celebration.

“We put banners up on the campus announcing the countdown to centennial,” he said. “This was important because there are not many African-American businesses and organizations that make it to 100 years old.”

Leon King
Leon King, Alumni Director 1979-1990

Ford also initiated the Millennium Membership level for the TSUNAA, a new concept allowing graduates to join for a 10-year period as opposed to life membership. Also under his administration, Ford was instrumental in pushing for Vivien Thomas, a surgical technician who developed the procedure used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s, to be installed into the TSUNAA as an honorary alumni member. Emphasis was also placed on fundraising for scholarships and student recruitment under Ford’s administration.

Dr. Ada Jackson followed Ford as national president and focused on building regional attendance and membership. She was in tune with regional concerns due to her experience as the association’s Mid-South Regional vice president two years prior.

Chris Whitfield
Margaret Whitfield, Alumni Director 1990-2000

“Dr. Jackson worked closely with the university president to ensure that the national association provided the greatest level of support to program and events,” said Dr. Darlene Harris-Vasser, TSUNAA’s current executive secretary. “Dr. Jackson can be recognized for hosting one of the most successful National Alumni Association conventions in its history.”

Harris-Vasser added that many of the TSUNAA presidents were instrumental in trying to increase communications to and among alumni chapters and worked hard to strengthen the programs and activities of the national organization.

Michelle Viera
Michelle Viera, Alumni Director 2000-2011

The Grand Marshals for the 2015 Homecoming who will attend the Oct. 16 Scholarship Gala include:

  • Robert Smith, Esq., 1998-2002
  • James H. Ford, 2002-2006
  • Ada Jackson, Ph.D., 2005-2008
  • Leonard Stephens, 2008-2012

Former TSU alumni directors who will be honored are:

  • Leon King, 1979-1990
  • Margaret C. Whitfield, 1990-2001
  • Michelle Viera, 2001-2011

“One hundred years is a milestone that we should embrace and be proud about,” Griggs said. “I challenge all alumni to give a little more time and resources to support the education of future alumni years to come.”

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 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 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 kicks off football season with John Merritt pep rally

The melodic sounds of Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands filled the campus as the Tigers kicked off a spirited pep rally in preparation of a new football season.

At the pep rally, students, alumni, faculty and staff blasted roaring screams and applause cheering on the Tigers in support of the big opener – the John A. Merritt Classic.

The Classic will be the first home game held Sunday, Sept. 6, 6 p.m. at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. The TSU Tigers will face off with rival Alabama State Hornets. Fans will enjoy the big blue experience complete with the game, the band and a salute to TSU great, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, who was drafted by the NFL in 1974 and was one of only three players to ever play 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Jones’ successful professional football career includes being named an All-Pro, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XII champion.

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Among those motivating the crowd at the pep rally were student leaders and administrators including Mr. TSU Delvakio Brown and Miss TSU Tyra Laster, along with TSU Athletics Director Teresa Lawrence-Phillips and Head Coach Rod Reed.

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“We really appreciate your support and need you there on Sunday night,” Reed said to the crowd. “We want you to show up and show out because that’s what the Tigers plan to do!”

Psychology major Kenneesha Beckwith was excited to share in the festivities on TSU’s campus.

“This is my first TSU pep rally on campus,” said Beckwith, a freshman from Chicago. “The band is great.”

Also joining in the celebration were TSU alumnae Margo Cain (’61) of Nashville and Renee McCleary (’88), who traveled from Chicago. They fondly remembered the excitement that pep rallies had in building the spirit on campus and the energy at TSU during their years as students when the games were held in the William Jasper Hale Stadium, affectionately known as ‘The Hole.’

“There was a lot of student involvement when the games were in ‘The Hole,’” said McCleary. “The pep rallies were always fund and the band would come from across the campus, and everyone would be ready to win.”

The John A. Merritt Classic was first played in 1999 and honors John Ayers Merritt, the legendary TSU football coach who led the Tigers from 1963-1983. During 21 seasons, “Big John” won four undisputed national championships among historically black colleges ranked by the Sheridan Poll, compiled a lifetime record of 172-33-1, and built a powerful program that produced NFL stars like Richard Dent (Chicago Bears), “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Claude Humphrey (Philadelphia Eagles) and many others. John Merritt Boulevard in Nashville is named in Coach Merritt’s honor.

Late TSU President Celebrated for Brilliance, Love of Students and Commitment to Black Higher Education; Laid to Rest After Nashville Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – In a packed memorial service in Poag Auditorium Sept. 2, speakers remembered former Tennessee State University President James A. Hefner for his brilliance, love of students and his “undying” commitment for quality black higher education.

“He won the respect of his colleagues and peers because he was smart and fearless as an educator, who wanted the best for his students,” said TSU President Glenda Glover, who referred to the late former president as a friend and mentor.

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Dr. Fred Humphries, former president of TSU and President Emeritus of Florida A&M University, was a longtime friend of Dr. Hefner. Humphries described his friend as “a very serious person.” (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Glover was one of more than seven current and former university presidents who attended the service to pay tribute to their fallen colleague. They joined family members, friends and other dignitaries, including U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper in a standing-room only ceremony featuring traditional African drumbeats, songs and video presentations of Hefner’s views on HBCUs, black economic empowerment and family.

Tributes from across the nation from friends, schoolmates, former colleagues and acquaintances referred to Hefner as a skilled educator who was “serious and all about business.”

“He had a good mind and he cultivated it so others could benefit,” said former classmate and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who attended college with Hefner at North Carolina A&T University. Jackson’s tribute was read at the ceremony.

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Dr. Ivan Davis, director of Student Health Services, left; Dr. Nebraska Mays, former distinguished professor of Education, and vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents: and Dr. Thomas Martin, former vice president of Student Affairs, served at TSU during Dr. Hefner’s tenure. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Hefner, the sixth president of TSU, who led the institution 14 years from 1991-2005, died from cancer Aug. 27 at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee. He was buried in Nashville Sept. 3 after funeral services at Christ Church Cathedral. Hefner was 76.

When asked recently how he would like to be remembered, Hefner said, “As an educator who cared about black higher education and the welfare of students.”

Former colleagues saw him as one who would do whatever it took to make sure students mattered the most.

“He was a very serious person,” said former TSU President and President Emeritus of Florida A&M University, Dr. Fred Humphries. “He was about making his life mean something, and about keeping alive the good works of HBCUs.”

Dr. Everett Freeman, former president of Albany State University and president of Community College of Denver, worked with Hefner at TSU and at Jackson State University, where the late leader served as president before coming to TSU.

He named football, the school band, education and family as Hefner’s biggest passions.

“But his ultimate concern was to make sure students mattered most,” said Freeman, who served as Hefner’s executive assistant at TSU.

Other current and former presidents who paid tribute to Hefner were: Dr. John Wilson, Morehouse College; and Dr. Robert Johnson, Clark Atlanta University. Also sharing tributes was former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, as well as well as former students David Winslow, Tennessee State; Thomas Scott, Morehouse; and Robert Scott, Jackson State.

Under Dr. Hefner’s leadership, TSU saw some of its most significant growth. He managed the end of the Geier desegregation case, in which TSU received an Endowment for Educational Excellence to support scholarship opportunities for exceptional students. He kicked off the university’s first capital fundraising campaign to increase TSU’s endowment, and saw the completion of the new Performing Arts Building, the final building in the $112 million capital improvements project which funded the construction of eight new facilities and renovations of existing structures on campus. See Brief Snapshot of Accomplishments.

Dr. Hefner’s long-standing career as an academician and executive administrator also included teaching and serving as research associate at Harvard University, Princeton University, Clark College, Florida A&M University, Benedict College and Prairie View A&M University. After retiring from TSU in 2005, he accepted a non-resident fellowship at Harvard University in the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research and served as Visiting Distinguished Professor of Economics and Presidential Leadership at Texas Southern University.

Dr. Hefner earned degrees at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he obtained his bachelor’s in business administration. At Atlanta University, he received a Master of Economics, and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He is survived by his wife, Edwina Hefner; three sons: Christopher Hefner of St. Petersburg, Florida, Jonathan Hefner, M.D. and his wife Katrina of Atlanta, David Hefner, Ed.D. and his wife Tasha of Marietta, Georgia; 11 grandchildren; two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law; and a host of other family and friends.

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 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 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 Family Remembers the Legacy of Former President, Dr. James A. Hefner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dr. James A. Hefner, who served as president of Tennessee State University for 14 years, has died. He was 76. In honor of his life, the university will hold a memorial service Wednesday, Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m. in the Thomas E. Poag Auditorium on the university’s main campus. Funeral services are scheduled Thursday, Sept. 3, 1 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, located at 900 Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Those who knew Dr. James A. Hefner described him as a strong academician and an individual who encouraged and appreciated excellence. (File Photo)

Dr. Hefner made his way to TSU in April 1991 after ending a seven-year presidency at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Prior to Jackson State, he served as provost of Tuskegee University in Alabama. His passion for academic excellence and student success concluded at one of his alma maters, Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), where he as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs until his death.

“The Tennessee State University family sends its deepest condolences to the Hefner family,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Dr. Hefner devoted his entire adult life to serving others and expanding educational opportunities to all. As educators, we have lost a visionary and one of the best leaders to ever serve this great institution. He loved inspiring students and challenging them.”

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Dr. Hefner’s focus on nurturing minds was not limited to college students. Here he interacts with children during a special program in Nashville. (File Photo)

Those who knew Dr. Hefner described him as a strong academician and an individual who encouraged and appreciated excellence. While president at TSU, his focus on ensuring faculty and staff put students first was evident in the slogan, “Students Matter Most,” which became a part of the culture on campus during his tenure.

Homer Wheaton, a former vice president of University Relations and Development, said Dr. Hefner was a “real good person,” adding that he was a brilliant man who was very academic-focused and results-driven.

“When Dr. Hefner first came to TSU, he promoted me to vice president. It was something completely unexpected for me,” Wheaton said. “He had heard about my relationship with alumni and students, and offered me an opportunity to move up.

“Dr. Hefner was the kind of leader who would let you do what you could do to make a contribution – all he wanted to see was results. He respected people for what they did and was very complimentary of people who did a good job. The fact that he would turn you loose and let you do your work, made it so gratifying to work for him. I appreciated him so much.

Dr. Hefner’s push for excellence came from humble beginnings in rural Brevard, North Carolina, where he began to develop a love for learning at an early age. According to a profile article by former TSU history professor, Dr. James Haney, Hefner’s family had no books in their home. He was taken under the wing of his elementary principal who invited him to her home to read her encyclopedias.”

“For eight years,” said Dr. Hefner at the time, “while I was in elementary school, I would stop at her house on the way home and I would read the encyclopedia.”

He made no apologies for being intelligent, and earned his place as valedictorian of his elementary class, salutatorian of his high school, and then soon received scholarship offers to a number of higher education institutions, including Duke University. He ultimately chose to attend the historically black university, North Carolina A&T State University.

Wilson Lee, director of TSU’s Center for Extended Education, recalls his first encounter with Dr. Hefner when applying for a job at Jackson State University. He said he happened to meet and interview with the former president by chance and knew immediately that he wanted the “best around him.” Wilson was hired there by Dr. Hefner and also joined Dr. Hefner when he assumed the presidency at Tennessee State University in 1991.

“He listened more than anything else and you didn’t have to go through a second person, you could talk directly to him,” Lee said. “He recruited and built a team of people to work with him at TSU – people he had known throughout the years and people who were experts in their fields. He was a model president to me.”

Under Dr. Hefner’s leadership, TSU saw some of its most significant growth. He managed the end of the Geier desegregation case, in which TSU received an Endowment for Educational Excellence to support scholarship opportunities for exceptional students. He kicked off the university’s first capital fundraising campaign to increase TSU’s endowment, and saw the completion of the new Performing Arts Building, the final building in the $112 million capital improvements project which funded the construction of eight new facilities and renovations of existing structures on campus. See Brief Snapshot of Accomplishments.

In 1997, Dr. Hefner hired Michelle Viera to lead the Office of Alumni Relations. Viera, who is now assistant vice president of events management and conference services, said Dr. Hefner had a way of making alumni feel special.

“He treated them [alumni] like VIPs regardless of their background,” Viera said.

She said she fondly remembers Dr. Hefner’s stories of encouragement. One, in particular, that he repeated often was the African parable of “The Lion and the Gazelle.”

“As president, he truly believed that ‘students matter most,’” Viera continued. “He encouraged them to keeping running and to never give up and to be their best. He shared that story so often that the students began to join in reciting it with him when he told it.”

Dr. Jacqueline Mitchell also enjoyed a great working relationship with Dr. Hefner, who appointed her special assistant for the Geier Consent Decree. Mitchell now serves as professor and director of Interdisciplinary Studies at TSU.

“Dr. Hefner was on a true wave length of excellence. He didn’t believe in second class status and strived to bring Tennessee State University to the level equal or superior to any school, anywhere,” Mitchell said.

“It was because of Dr. Hefner that Tennessee State was able to receive $4.1 million in reoccurring funds from the state of Tennessee,” said Dr. Stephen H. Kolison, Jr., associate vice president of Academic, Faculty and Global Programs with the University of Wisconsin System. Kolison spent 10 years at TSU serving in the capacities of research director and funding dean in Agricultural and Environmental Research.

“The College of Agriculture at TSU made some significant strides in receiving funding from the state. The Agriculture Information Technology Center and the Biotechnology Building were conceived while working with Dr. Hefner. I give tremendous credit to Dr. Hefner for being willing to engage with the state and not giving up,” he continued. See more Words of Remembrance Honoring the Life of Dr. Hefner.

Among Dr. Hefner’s extensive awards and honors include an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Marlboro College in 1999, and an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from The University of the South. He was co-author and editor of the book, Public Policy for the Black Community: Strategies and Perspectives in 1976, and wrote and published more than 50 articles in the areas of employment practice and labor-force participation rates of minorities.

Dr. Hefner’s long-standing career as an academician and executive administrator also included teaching and serving as research associate at Harvard University, Princeton University, Clark College, Florida A&M University, Benedict College and Prairie View A&M University. After from retiring from TSU in 2005, he accepted a non-resident fellowship at Harvard University in the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research and served as Visiting Distinguished Professor of Economics and Presidential Leadership at Texas Southern University. He was also a former member of the board of regents at the University of the South and the board of trustees at Morehouse College where he was the Charles E. Merrill Professor of Economics and chair of the Department of Business and Economics.

Dr. Hefner earned degrees at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he obtained his bachelor’s in business administration. At Atlanta University, he received a Master of Economics, and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He is survived by a wife, Edwina Hefner; three sons: Christopher Hefner of St. Petersburg, Florida., Jonathan Hefner, M.D. and his wife Katrina of Atlanta, Georgia, David Hefner, Ed.D. and his wife Tasha of Marietta, Georgia; 11 grandchildren; two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law; and a host of other family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that condolences be made in support of the James. A. Hefner Scholarship Award – named in his honor at Tennessee State University and Morehouse College for outstanding students. For more information, contact the TSU Foundation at (615) 963-5481.

 

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Tennessee State University
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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 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 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.