NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It is a program that has spanned 50 years and has seen the likes of future lawyers, surgeons, engineers, business CEOs, and even the University president, Dr. Glenda Glover.
Now, Tennessee State University’s Honor Program and one of its most treasured figures will be recognized during The 2014 Scholarship Gala Friday, Sept. 26. Themed, “An evening of Honors,” the celebration will pay tribute to long-time director, Dr. McDonald Williams, and the growth of the program since 1963.
“This really is a time to celebrate the program and one of the most instrumental persons behind it,” said Dr. Coreen Jackson, current director of the Honor Program. “Dr. Williams, while not the original founder, laid the cornerstone of academic excellence and the standard of which this program was built upon.”
Under then University President, Dr. Walter S. Davis, a committee was charged with studying Honors programs and determining the feasibility of establishing one at the University. The committee recommended that TSU keep pace with other institutions throughout the country. As a result, an Honors Program for freshman students started in the fall of 1964. Sophomore through senior level course work was added yearly throughout 1968.
Williams spent 30 years at the University serving as a professor of English, and as director of the Honors Program for 23 years before retiring in 1988.
The program, said Jackson, has gone through many changes throughout the years. Today it boasts more than 400 students; 145 of which are first-time freshmen. The goal is to transition the program into an Honors College in the near future. But the foundation built by Williams still holds true today, she said.
“He [Dr. Williams] had a vision for where the program needed to go and subsequent directors, including Jane Elliott and Sandra Holt have carried that vision forward,” said Jackson.
The yearlong celebration of the Honors Program kicked off earlier this year and was capped by a visit on March 26 by award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien. The former CNN anchor was the featured speaker at the Honors Anniversary Luncheon as well as the keynote speaker during the Honors Day Convocation.
Other events planned include a Black Tie Gala held earlier this year, and an Honors Research Symposium to coincide with the University-Wide Research Symposium. In the fall, the celebration will culminate with a special 50th Anniversary cake-cutting ceremony and an Honors Week observance.
According to Jackson, the primary goal of the celebration is two-fold. The first is to bring awareness to the program that creates and maintains a community of academically bright and talented students who serve as campus leaders and role models. The second, she said, was to raise the necessary funds to transition the program to a college.
“The key objective is the academic enrichment of our students and working with them to achieve their goals,” she added. “We have the opportunity to teach students who are excited about learning and have the freedom to explore issues from multiple points of view. The program not only impacts the students but also the entire University.”
The jubilee celebration kicks off with an “Honors 50 for 50” campaign to raise $500,000 to help the program transition to an Honors College. The new college, she said, will encourage interdisciplinary programs, enhance undergraduate research in all disciplines, advisement for prestigious fellowships and scholarships, mentoring programs, and lifelong learning, including a global perspective through study abroad.
“As a College, we will be able to highlight the importance of offering an enriched honors curriculum and to increase the University’s ability to recruit and retain high-ability students,” added Jackson. “We have a program that has a national reputation and it already meets the characteristics of an Honors College, as recommended by the National Collegiate Honors Council, the recognized leader in undergraduate honor education.”
For more information on the 2014 Scholarship Gala call 615.963.5481 or visit www.tnstate.edu/scholarshipgala. The gala takes place Friday, Sept. 26 at Music City Center and tickets are available now to purchase.
Department of Media Relations
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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.