NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Nationally syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner helped Tennessee State University showcase its excellence on Saturday.
Joyner, host of The Tom Joyner Morning Show, delivered TSU’s undergraduate commencement address. More than 800 students received degrees in various disciplines at the spring ceremony in the William Jasper Hale Stadium on the main campus.
Joyner, who has long been a proponent of historically black colleges and universities, credits his mother and great aunt, Jane Elliott Hall. Elliott, who started TSU’s cafeteria program in its early days, has a building on campus named in her honor.
Joyner encouraged the graduates to “choose a cause and commit to making a change.”
“If I leave you with anything this morning, it’s to do what you can, and everybody can do something,” he said.
Mr. TSU Jordan Gaither, of Atlanta, was among Saturday’s graduates. Gaither said he met Joyner last year at the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, and that Joyner’s hard work ethic is inspirational.
“He’s definitely one of the hardest working people in the business,” said Gaither, who is majoring in exercise science with a minor in mass communications. “Radio is something I’m into. I’d like to be a radio personality one of these days.”
An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Joyner is a champion of historically black colleges and universities. His foundation, the Tom Joyner Foundation, supports HBCUs with scholarships, endowments, and capacity building enhancements.
Since its creation in 1997, the foundation has raised more than $65 million to help students stay in school. Last year, the foundation selected TSU to be a “school of the month.” Under the designation, the foundation awarded scholarships to students throughout the month and featured TSU’s accomplishments on Joyner’s weekly morning program.
Also last year, the foundation entered into a partnership with TSU to help students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Under the partnership, Memphis students graduating from five Tennessee community colleges will receive full scholarships to attend TSU.
“I established the Tom Joyner Foundation because I wanted to continue showing love to HBCUs,” Joyner said. “Schools like TSU make it easy to do.”
Students say the Tom Joyner partnership and other TSU initiatives – like the Career Development Center and the Women’s Center – have helped prepare them for the workforce, as well as find jobs.
Gaither, who has an internship lined up with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and will be working with an NBA basketball team this summer, is one of a number of TSU graduates who have jobs waiting for them.
Maya Davis of Nashville, a computer science major, and electrical engineering major Cametria Weatherspoon of Memphis, will both be working for Lockheed Martin.
“Having a job after I graduate is a blessing,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m excited.”
While some students have jobs lined up, Joyner joked that for others, they may be asked when they are going to start making money.
“The answer is today,” he said, “I am going to give each graduate $5. Some will invest and may save it and put it with other Graduation money. Keep in touch and let me know what you did with it. But whatever you do with it, make it count.”
Also celebrating were TSU’s Class of 1967, who returned as Golden Vintagers. These alumni walked across the stage for a second time, receiving certificates recognizing their 50-year milestone.
Georgia native Alvin Hinkle, an accomplished attorney now residing in Columbia, South Carolina, returned for the Vintagers celebration.
“When I was on campus in 1967 it was during the Civil Rights era and there was a lot of activity,” said Hinkle, who was president of the Student Senate at the time. “I wanted to come back and see people I haven’t seen in 50 years. It’s good to be back.”
The evening before, graduate commencement participants received words of wisdom from Congressman Jim Cooper in TSU’s Howard C. Gentry Complex.
Cooper, who represents Middle Tennessee in the U.S. Congress, said before the event that he was “excited to honor Tennessee State University’s graduate class,” and that the “world is ready for their knowledge and leadership.”
Taking Cooper’s words to heart, graduate George Davis will put his TSU education to work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he has secured employment. Davis received a master’s in agricultural science with a concentration in data analysis and business management.
“You’ve got to seize every opportunity that you get,” said Davis, a Memphis native. “Having a job lined up just shows me how hard I’ve worked.”
Altogether, 1,067 TSU graduates – 266 grad and 801 undergrad – participated in the commencement ceremonies. Of the undergrads, 128 got degrees in nursing, 56 in criminal justice, 51 in business administration, and 50 in health sciences.
Student Government Association president Aarian Forman is one of the business administration majors who graduated. The Danville, Illinois, native said his experience at TSU has prepared him to be a “leader in the world.”
“TSU has made me think on a different level,” Forman said. “I was challenged to not just think on a local or national scale, but on a global scale.”
About Tennessee State University
With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.