Tag Archives: Emmanuel S. Freeman

Grandmother finishes what she started, gets TSU degree after 55 years

By Emmanuel S. Freeman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Darlene Mullins would always tell her children to finish what they started. On May 6, the 72-year-old grandmother did just that when she received her degree from Tennessee State University after 55 years.

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Darlene Mullins at undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Mullins was among more than 800 graduates from various disciplines at the undergraduate spring commencement in the William Jasper Hale Stadium on Tennessee State’s main campus.

“I am very excited and just overjoyed to see this day,” said Mullins, who graduated with honors.

For Mullins, the journey to earn a college degree began on TSU’s campus in 1962. But just as it started, it was cut short.

“Love got in the way,” said Mullins, who celebrates 54 years of marriage in August.

She met John Mullins, a senior from East St. Louis, Illinois, who she described as dashing and handsome, “everything to behold.”

Darlene, a former Miss New Jersey and Miss Glamour runner up, had an immediate crush.

“I thought he was the finest thing walking on the campus,” Darlene told Alumni Life, a campus magazine, in 2014.

She said a courtship developed and the two were married a short time later. John stayed on and completed his college work, graduating in 1964. Darlene took on the role of caring for their home and raising a family.

But in putting her education aside, Darlene also gave up on a dream of becoming an Olympic track star as a member of the famed Tigerbelles.

“I came to TSU because I ran track. I wanted to go to the 1964 Olympics,” Darlene said. “Wilma Rudolph was my idol and I was on my way. I get to TSU and meet the great coach (Ed) Temple, but we bumped heads, because I had to make a choice between his track team or Mr. John Mullins.”

More than a half century and two children and several grandchildren later, John and Darlene have remained very supportive of each other, while living in six states over the course of their marriage.

As the children grew older and family care got less, Darlene embarked on a long and successful career in retail and cosmetology.

All the while, John worked for a number of corporate and government agencies before starting his own business, Lions Group Inc., a successful marketing and advertising company in Dallas, Texas. He said his TSU education with a degree in business gave him a good foundation to be an entrepreneur.

“I always knew I wanted to own my own business,” John said.

But as the two moved around with success at every turn, Darlene never forgot her academic aspiration.

“Something kept nagging at me,” she said. “I always told my children to make sure they finish what they started and I kind of felt it was time to live up to my own advice.”

John and Darlene Mullins
John and Darlene Mullins will celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary in August. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

She decided it was time to go back to school to get her degree. “John did not hesitate for one bit; he said ‘let’s go,’” Darlene said.

“I love this woman so much and always told her whenever you are ready we will go because this is something I knew she always wanted and I will do nothing to hold her back,” John said.

In July 2013, the couple moved back to Nashville to allow Darlene to finish what she started. She returned to TSU and pursued a degree in interdisciplinary studies, sometimes taking as many as 20 credit hours a semester, and earning top grades.

“My goal was to come back and finish at Tennessee State.  I didn’t know at the time how long it was going to take, I just knew I had to do it,” she said.

With the 25 credits she had accumulated before dropping out in 1963, Darlene is completing her college work in four years. A member of three honor societies, she is graduating summa cum laude.

“My graduation from college, for me, confirms that I completed what I started more than 50 years ago,” Darlene said. “I am happy.”

The Mullins’ children are Dr. John E. Mullins Jr. of Baskin Ridge, New Jersey, and Darchele Mullins Erskine of Chicago. They are the proud grandparents of Amber Mullins, Sierra Mullins, John E. Mullins III, and Brandon Forney.

 

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, 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.

 

‘Donor Appreciation’ Gives Scholarship Recipients Chance to Say ‘Thank You’

By Emmanuel S. Freeman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Leona Dunn is finally enjoying college life and stressing less about school fees. She is grateful.

“My first year in college I paid over $1,200 out of pocket from what I saved up over the summer to help me stay in college,” said Dunn, a junior communications major.

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TSU President Glenda Glover says scholarship donors help the university stay on the path of excellence. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

That experience was the beginning of some tough times for the Omaha, Nebraska, native who had just come out of foster care. She was barely able to keep up with the payment plan she had worked up, which made registering for the next semester even more difficult.

“My balance was still off,” Dunn said. “I had no one back home to help. And coming from foster care, the system doesn’t exactly just give children owned by the state full ride scholarships to anywhere even if they had an exceptional GPA and ACT score like I did.”

But thanks to some “nice people” and “great organizations,” Dunn is now worrying less about tuition and focusing more on her academics. She received financial assistance from the Links, and the Tennessee State University Women’s Center.

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Leona Dunn gave a Spoken Word rendition at the Scholarship Appreciation Program and Reception. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

“With all of this help I had to come up with only $200 this year …a huge blessing. I am so grateful,” she said.

On Friday, April 7, Dunn, and fellow students who receive help through scholarship donations, had a chance to say, “Thank You.”

It was the 6th Annual Scholarship Appreciation Program and Reception, or “Donor Appreciation,” held in Kean Hall. The event, organized by the TSU Foundation, allows scholarship recipients to meet face-to-face with donors to thank them for their generosity.

TSU President Glenda Glover said scholarship donors help the university to stay on the path of excellence by ensuring that students receive quality education through their gifts.

“Because of you, our students are able to matriculate,” Glover said. “They get to come, they get to stay and they get to graduate because of your dollars. We are just so grateful.”

Donors Reception
Scholarship recipients enter Kean Hall with cheers and songs of appreciation for donors who have helped them stay in school. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

This year, nearly 280 people, including students, donors and special guests attended the program featuring songs, recognition of donors and a special toast. Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, vice president for Research and Institutional Advancement, provided remarks.

Eloise Abernathy Alexis, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, said the program gave the students a “unique opportunity” to interact with the donors.

“We send out postcards, letters and notes to donors to show our appreciation for their gifts, but this is the moment when donors and students really get to come together face to face to give and receive appreciation,” Alexis said.

Dr. Darlene Harris-Vasser, assistant director of Donor Relations, coordinates the reception each year. She said it is exciting to see the joy on donors’ faces when they meet the students in person.

“They are just so elated to see all of those students speaking about their educational goals, future plans and how their (donors’) contributions are making it possible for them to achieve their goals,” Harris-Vasser said.

The Women’s Center, one of the donors that offered Dunn financial assistance, develops and sponsors programming that enhances the skills of women and assists in their development as scholars and professionals.

According to Seanne Wilson, director of the center, Dunn approached the center to inquire about assistance.

“As Leona is a huge supporter of the Women’s Center and its events, the center was happy to assist her with the request,” Wilson said.

In appreciation, Dunn wants to give back to help others.

“Hopefully I want to have my own endowed scholarship when I become an alumna to help others and give back for the help I received,” she said.

For information on how to support the TSU Foundation or make a scholarship donation, please go to http://www.tnstate.edu/foundation/.

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, 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.

Tennessee State University Students Build Wheelchairs for Disabled Canines

By Emmanuel S. Freeman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Pugsly the Pug has a new wheelchair.

Born with a spinal deformity that makes it difficult to stay on its feet, the 15-year-old Dutch mastiff has a new lease on life, thanks to a team of occupational and physical therapy students at Tennessee State University.

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The Dog Wheelchair Competition winning team members and their professors are, from left standing, Jake Armstrong, Blaine Martin, Dr. Rita Troxtel and Dr. Karen Coker. Squatting with Pugsly are, left, Reagan Worth and Erica LaFollette. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The students, along with some of their peers from the Art Department, designed a special wheelchair that allows Pugsly to take long strides without wobbling or falling.

Dr. Rita Troxtel, assistant professor of occupational therapy and Pugsly’s owner, organized a wheelchair competition that challenged the students to develop wheelchairs for disabled dogs that are low cost, lightweight and easy to maneuver.

The competition was held Nov. 29 in the university’s Floyd-Payne Student Center. About 80 students and their advisers participated.

They came up with 17 different concepts and designs that were tested on Pugsly before a panel of judges. The winning wheelchair went to Pugsly. Troxtel said the other wheelchairs in the competition will be donated to organizations that specialize in adopting or providing sanctuary for animals with disabilities.

A team of two occupational therapy and two physical therapy students came up with the winning design made of PVC pipes, with two big back wheels and two smaller front wheels for turning; a push handle, and stretch fabric with four round openings for the feet.

“Pugsly is grateful for his new wheels,” Troxtel said.

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Another team of competitors fit Bugsly in their invention, a two-wheeler. (photo by Courtney Buggs, TSU Media Relations)

Dr. Karen Coker, assistant professor of physical therapy and one of the judges, said the winning design “offered ease of getting in with just one person.”

“The fabric is flexible and soft; it won’t poke anywhere, and the wheelchair has a push handle so that the owner won’t have to bend over,” Coker said. “It is the perfect mix.”

Blain Martin, a graduate physical therapy major, was on the winning team. He said the goal was to develop a wheelchair that was easy to use.

“We all collaborated and we had a group message going in,” Martin said. “We met up several times to make sure we were on the same page with our project. It was great teamwork.”

Other winning team members were Reagan Worth, occupational therapy; Jake Armstrong, physical therapy; and Erica LaFollette, occupational therapy.

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The other wheelchairs in the competition will be donated to organizations that specialize in adopting or providing sanctuary for animals with disabilities. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

Second-year graduate occupational major Amber Alexander’s team did not win, but she was impressed with the exercise.

“Participating in this competition gave use some real-world exposure to our various disciplines,” she said.

Mike Carter, a Ph.D. physical therapy student, said he enjoyed the teamwork.

“Collaboration was great in our group,” Carter said. “In fact, one of the guys in the group was skilled in making things. He actually has a shop where he builds all kinds of stuff. So this was right up his alley.”

Dr. Hamid Hamidzadeh, head of TSU’s Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department, lauded organizers for having the competition.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to get hands on experience,” said Hamidzadeh, who was also a judge. “The students will really get the opportunity to go beyond the limit of the classroom.“

Troxtel said the skills the students learned from creating the dog wheelchairs will transfer to developing technology for humans.

“The TSU OT department is considering purchasing a 3D printer to build prosthetic limbs,” she said. “I also plan to hold a competition again next year, but it will focus on building assistive technology for human use.”

For more information on TSU’s various therapy programs in the College of Health Sciences, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/health_sciences/.

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, 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.

Held Together by Screws, Nuts and Bolts, “Ultimate Bionic Woman” to Graduate from Tennessee State University

Karen Munoz
Karen Munoz

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Fresh out of an abusive marriage with no money, mounting bills and three children to care for, Karen Denese Munoz had no where to go but down, at least so she thought.

With a last gasp for relief, the college dropout turned to her father, Leo Ronald Summers Sr., for advice on how to cope.

“Don’t complain when you don’t have; learn to improvise,” the retired Army lieutenant told his daughter.

While Munoz said her father’s response was not exactly the answer she was looking for, it gave her a different perspective on life and how to find strength in the face of difficulties and unfortunate circumstances.

No doubt that renewed sense of determination has worked well for Munoz, who will accomplish a journey she started more than 32 years ago.

In spite of multiple surgeries and operations to repair a crushed vertebrae, head injuries and a broken neck and back, that left her in constant pain and in a state of severe depressive disorder and anxiety, the Fort Hood, Texas, native will receive her college degree when Tennessee State University hold its spring commencement May 10.

“I live by trying to improvise as my father told me,” Munoz said about how she was able to maintain a near 3.0 GPA to graduate with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Human Resource Management, despite her disorder, which has left her unable to fully concentrate, think or remember “as others.”

“I had to study twice as hard as the average person to concentrate and retain,” said Munoz, who keeps sticky notes “everywhere” to help her remember.

Munoz’s college journey began in 1983 at TSU as an Architectural Engineering major. Three years into her college work, things began to unravel for the young, promising student. Married at the time, with children and a physically and mentally abusive husband, who insisted she seeks full-time employment, she quit school to work with the Metro Public School Harris Hillman as a Para Professional.

Although Munoz eventually walked out of her marriage, having to care for her children alone, a series of unfortunate events soon began to unfold that would change the course of her life forever. Because of the seriousness of her neck and vertebrae injuries, she was reassigned to several different departments in Metro. Finally she received permanent placement at the Transportation Department.

One day while getting something from the supply closet at work with the door opened, Munoz said, a coworker (who was not aware of her presence) pushed the door, apparently trying to open it while she was behind, the knob on the other side hit her directly in the tail bone. The force sent her crashing, head first, into the door paneling ahead, crushing her vertebrae.

As if fate had an unfinished business with Munoz, while recovering from that injury, she was in a car accident that left her with a broken back and neck.

“I was in a concussion that lasted two years,” she said. “My vertebrae had to be fused from the top to the bottom through a process called spinal track titanium fusion. That’s the only thing that’s holding my head up. I do not have any peripheral view because I cannot move my head side to side. I can only look ahead.”

For Munoz, being able to cope through all her pain and suffering have not come without a good sense of humor.

“I am the ultimate bionic woman,” she said.  “If you move all of the titanium from my body I will never move again. My condition is irreversible.”

Saying that she is being held together by modern technology, Munoz is thankful to God, her family and the doctors at Vanderbilt Hospital for giving her a chance, although she laments the constant pain from screws, nuts and bolts in her body.”

“The pain never goes away; I have to take medication to sleep. This is something I live with,” she added.

But with all of what seem to be impairments, and getting out of yet another physically and mentally abusive relationship, in addition to losing her job with Metro, Munoz said she was constantly haunted by her desire to complete her college work.

“These disabilities from my injuries affected me so much at work that I asked for an IOD (Injured while on Duty and or Medical Disability) waiver, which Metro denied and fired me,” Munoz said, adding that the denial and subsequent dismissal gave her more inspiration.

With five children (including a step son and a nephew), no job, her house in foreclosure and no money, Munoz said she applied for and was granted financial aid loan at TSU.

“When they checked my record they told me I was a senior and I had only few credits to complete my college work,” she said.

Munoz immediately went to work, with the deeply imbedded thought of the advice her father had given her, and the urging of her mother to leave her second abusive husband and return to school. She registered with a full load of college work.

“I decided I would pursue my degree in the hopes of changing my circumstances. I studied twice as hard, using my sleeplessness to my advantage to take in as much as I could,” she said.

Even at that, Munoz, whose father is also a TSU graduate, said many times she wanted to quit, having been out of school for nearly 32 years, but a sign on the Business Information board at the Avon Williams campus that read, “You are never too old to achieve your goal,” inspired her to press on.

“It was at that moment that I went full steam ahead stopping at nothing to achieve this goal which I had dreamed of all these years,” she said.

And so she did.

Munoz, 48, who is now married to Lugo San Munoz, a Salvadoran native, said she plans to go to graduate school and open a preparatory college in El Salvador for underprivileged high school students who have graduated high school but have no where to go. The school will be named Summers International Integration College of Excellence, after her father and mother who have been her inspiration.

“The hope is to partner with El Salvador to send their students to TSU and after they graduate they will return to their country where they will teach others.

“This is my lifelong dream. This is what God has sent me forth to do, and I intend to improvise in anyway possible to accomplish that ….screws, nuts, bolts or not.”

 

READ more student success stories including:

Johnathan Fitzgerald
Annette Scruggs

 

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

 

About Tennessee State University

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 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.