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Colleagues, Friends Reflect on Levi Watkins Legacy

Tennessee State University holds memorial service Monday, April 27

 

Dr. Levi Watkins (courtesy photo)
Dr. Levi Watkins (courtesy photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Word of the death of one of the most prominent cardiac surgeons in the world sent a shock wave of emotions throughout the medical community when Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., passed from a massive heart attack April 11. Watkins was 70.

Dr. Watkins, a TSU alum, was not only a renowned surgeon, but also a civil rights and political activist who broke through racial barriers. He was the first African American admitted to Vanderbilt Medical school, the first surgeon to successfully implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a human patient, and a civil rights pioneer who helped fling open medical school doors to hundreds of students who had been excluded — as he had once been — because they were black.

TSU Dr Glenda Glover Fam Port 090513
Dr. Glenda Glover

“Dr. Watkins changed the world with his passion for medicine,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “He 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.”

Born in Parsons, Kansas and the third of six children, Watkins made his way to Nashville by way of Memphis, Tennessee, to attend then Tennessee A&I State University where he majored in biology. Watkins was listed in the Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges, was the president of the Student Council from 1965-66, and national vice president of Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society. He was a member of the Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Society, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the University Counselors.

Upon hearing the news of the passing of his friend of more than 50 years, Richard Sinkfield, now a lawyer in Atlanta, said he was greatly saddened and shocked, but privileged and blessed by his life, and times they shared.

RICHARD-H-SINKFIELD1
Richard Sinkfield

Sinkfield, who graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from TSU, first met Watkins during his freshman year when the fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, considered Watkins for membership.

“My fraternity brothers determined Levi would be a prime candidate for Student Council President three years before he would be eligible to run as a junior,” Sinkfield said. “He was selected to run and I was privileged to be a part of his campaign team. I placed his name in nomination for president of the student council at the convention, and Levi was elected.”

Their paths would continue to cross throughout the next five decades, even serving together as members of the Board of Trust at Vanderbilt University. Sinkfield said that Watkins was remembered at its most recent meeting shortly after his death, for his history-making admission to Vanderbilt Medical School, his pioneering contributions to the practice of cardiology and the leadership that he provided on the Board of Trust as Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, among other things.

But for all his accolades, Sinkfield added that Watkins never mentioned his own accomplishments, but maintained a laser like focus on issues related to civil and human rights and diversity.

“He was a very humble man,” Sinkfield said. “Our lives are much improved by the life that Levi lived.  We must be diligent to carry on his passion for excellence and the betterment of all humanity.”

Obie McKenzie
Obie McKenzie

Obie McKenzie, managing director of BlackRock Inc., another classmate while Watkins attended Tennessee State, remembered his friend and fraternity brother as “a great man and inspiration to many.”

“I kept thinking about my old friend and seeing his ‘then” lean frame at a lectern when we were back at Tennessee State many years ago and he was student body president,” said McKenzie. “An inspiration, I would also become SGA president. The world was a better place because he was here. My heart will miss him.”

Barbara Murrell, who returned to TSU in 1965 as Director of Student Activities after graduating in 1960, remembered her lifelong friend, as a humble and giving man.

Barbara Murrell
Barbara Murrell

“Dr. Watkins established the Robert N. Murrell (her husband) Scholarship fund in 1986 and had consistently supported it financially over the years,” she said. “He was a dear friend and he will be missed by all.”

After graduating with honors and at the urging of one of his biology professors at the University, Watkins applied and made history at Vanderbilt University, 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. He learned he was accepted at Vanderbilt from a headline in a Nashville newspaper, and was still the only black enrolled there when he graduated in 1970.

Dr. John Tarpley, professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, remembered his friend and colleague when they first met in 1966 as two of 54 students going through medical school. Tarpley recalled how it wasn’t easy for Watkins as he broke down yet another barrier as the first African-American student admitted to the school.

Dr. John Tarpley
Dr. John Tarpley

“Levi was an excellent student,” said Tarpley. “ His initial year was not so easy, in part, because of taunts he on occasion received in the dorms. He dealt with any discrimination there and elsewhere; he earned the respect of all at the medical school including faculty and students.”

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Dr. Watkins started a general surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1970, 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.

In 1980, Watkins gained renown for implanting the first automatic heart defibrillator in a patient suffering from repeated, life-threating episodes of ventricular fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats. Such a procedure now is commonplace, saving untold lives annually.

“His spirit lives on in the three million patients around the world whose hearts beat in a normal rhythm because of the implantable defibrillator,” said his brother, Donald Watkins, according to a statement posted on the American Heart Association website.

Watkins received honorary degrees from Morgan State University, Spelman College, Meharry Medical College, and Sojourner-Douglass College. He was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the medical field.

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

He is survived by brothers Donald V. Watkins Sr., and James Watkins, sisters Annie Marie Garraway and Doristine L. Minott, and several nieces and nephews.

Tennessee State University will hold a memorial service on Monday, April 27 at the University. The service takes place at 10 a.m., in the Forum Auditorium of the Floyd-Payne Campus Center. General parking will be at the Gentry Center Complex with shuttle service provided.

Following the service, a showing of Dr. Watkins performing the first surgery of the automatic implantable defibrillator at Johns Hopkins from the Discovery Channel will be available for viewing.

 

 

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 45 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, Vanderbilt Receive Nearly $1 Million to Increase Minority STEM Ph.D.’s

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) —Increasing the number of minority students who earn a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering and math is the aim of a new “bridge to doctorate” program being launched by a coalition of Tennessee universities and led by Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Lonnie Sharpe
Dr. Lonnie Sharpe

The National Science Foundation recently awarded $987,000 to TSU to launch the new program as an expansion of the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or TLSAMP. TLSAMP is a NSF-funded collaborative effort by 10 Tennessee colleges and universities to significantly increase and improve the retention of underrepresented minority students in STEM fields statewide.

“We are delighted that Vanderbilt University is the inaugural host for the Tennessee Bridge-to-the–Doctorate program,” said Dr. Lonnie Sharpe, Massie Chair of Excellence at Tennessee State University and TSLAMP executive director. “One of our goals is to increase the number of students attending graduate school. This award allows more of our students to transition into such programs. I am excited about this great opportunity for our students to continue their quest for doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Tennessee State University leads TLSAMP and includes Fisk University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Middle Tennessee State University, Nashville State Community College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Tennessee Technological University, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee – Knoxville and Vanderbilt. Each institution provides services that assist underrepresented minorities with the transition from high school to college, integrate them socially and academically into the university environment, and engage them in research and summer internship opportunities, and now include assisting to earn a Ph.D.

“We are thrilled to be working with TSU and our other Tennessee partners on this project. We all benefit by increasing the number of underrepresented minority students earning their Ph.D.s in these fields,” said Art Overholser, senior associate dean of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering and co-director of the new program. “The perspectives and talents of the students we hope to attract will not only enrich our research and teaching of STEM disciplines, but will serve as an example and inspiration for students to come.”

This is the second award in as many years for the TLSAMP from the National Science Foundation. In October 2013, TSU received a $2.5 million grant to increase the number of baccalaureate degrees awarded to students majoring in STEM disciplines while meeting the future needs of government, industry and education.

The five-year grant, said Sharpe, pays $493,207 per year and will impact nearly 3,800 underrepresented students throughout Tennessee at both ends of the collegiate pipeline, from community college to graduate school, and now the PH.D. level.

“These grants provides tremendous opportunities for us to increase the number of minority undergraduates and now Ph.Ds in the STEM field,” added Sharpe. “This will ultimately increase the number of students pursuing careers in the STEM workforce that drives the security and economy of our nation.”

 

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 45 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 Celebrates Employees, Presents Service Awards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University believes in celebrating faculty and staff, and it was no more evident than during the 23rd Annual Employee Recognition luncheon on Tuesday.  The event provided special recognition to University employees for their years of service and those retiring.

The program, said TSU President Glenda Glover, provided an opportunity to salute fellow colleagues for their time, talents and years of service to the University.

The University paid special recognition to faculty and staff for their years to the institution. Those recognized for 40 years of service to Tennessee State University included (L-R) William Hayslett, Bennie Brandon, Thelria Hardaway and Thomas Davis. (not pictured Sandra Brown and Carmelia Taylor)
The University paid special recognition to faculty and staff for their years to the institution. Those recognized for 40 years of service to Tennessee State University included (L-R) William Hayslett, Bennie Brandon, Thelria Hardaway and Thomas Davis. (not pictured Sandra Brown and Carmelia Taylor)

“The work that takes place on our campus is done through the collaborative efforts of so many hard-working individuals who share a commitment to our mission,” said Dr. Glover. “I applaud you for setting and achieving the goal of providing a customer-friendly and inclusive campus environment. Without the energy, dedication and cooperation of all our employees, the University would not be the premiere institution it is today.”

The service award program was created to provide special recognition to faculty and staff for their years of service to the University. Employees with five years or more of service were acknowledges at each five-year milestones. Recognition was paid to those retiring from the University.

Honorees included:

 

Retirees

  • Eunice Burt
  • Diane Carlew
  • Bonnie Chakravorty
  • Sidney Chandler
  • Khalid Chaudhary
  • Dixie Crawford
  • James Ellzy
  • Mattie Emanuel
  • Leonard Hayes
  • Rosemary Jeffries
  • Donzella Kay
  • Vicki King
  • Gregory Komives
  • Wanda McBee
  • David McCargar
  • Martha Parks
  • Richard Patterson
  • Rosalyn Pitt
  • Surendra Singh
  • Barbara Taylor
  • Alvin Wade
  • Perellia Walker

Service Awards

45 Years

  • Asalean Springfield

40 Years

  • Bennie Brandon
  • Sandra Brown
  • Thomas Davis
  • William Hayslett
  • Thelria Hardaway
  • Carmelia Taylor

35 Years

  • Eleanor Bass
  • Linda Bell
  • Sarabjit Bhatti
  • Sharon Bradley
  • Frankie Brooks
  • Frances Gore
  • Annie Harris
  • Jocelyn Thomas
  • Carey Wallace
  • Eddie Williams

 30 Years

  • Carter Catlin
  • Elizabeth Kunnu
  • Joseph Hurst
  • Kofi Semenya

 25 Years

  • Lynetta Alexander
  • Roy Avery
  • Karen Gupton
  • James Hollowell
  • Gregory Mitchell
  • Bryan Quarles
  • Lillie Taylor

20 Years

  • Ronnie Brooks
  • John Cade
  • Sammy Davis
  • Loretta Divens
  • Kay Gaines
  • Melanie Gardner
  • Veronica Jones
  • Mohammad Karim
  • David Kelley
  • Marietta Kelley
  • Wilson Lee
  • Deborah McCauley
  • Victoria McGee-Hayes
  • Landon Onyebueke
  • Mary Otis
  • Judith Presley
  • Wanda Richardson
  • Alex Sekwat
  • Amy Sibulkin
  • Brenda Siebe
  • Tommi Smith
  • Bradley White

 15 Years

  • Anonya Akuley-Amenyenu
  • William Anneseley
  • Ahmad Aziz
  • Christy Barbo
  • Tiffanie Brown
  • Brenda Collier
  • Sherry Crudup
  • Janice Emerson
  • Clifton Etheridge
  • Jessica Gabriel
  • James Henderson
  • Latessa Hickerson
  • Jayne Howse
  • Wendelyn Inman
  • Karla Kean
  • Latif Lighari
  • Gaile Mann
  • Ernest Miah
  • Nelson Modeste
  • Martha Mosley
  • Rabie Neal
  • Pinky Noble-Britton
  • Ben Northington
  • John Ordung
  • Henry Perry
  • Michelle Vaughn
  • Ruifang Wang
  • Anjetta Williams
  • Valerie Williams
  • George Yang

 10 Years

  • Karen Avant
  • Dereje Bahiru
  • Trena Barksdale
  • Ronald Barredo
  • Rebecca Bone
  • Sharon Boyce
  • Nakesha Brown
  • Charlene Byers
  • Kim Crutcher
  • Sedric Griffin
  • Tracey Harris
  • Melvin Johnson
  • Fabien Jolivette
  • Vahid Khairollahi
  • Bonita Knight
  • Chantae Matthews
  • Joshua Moore
  • Lois Muhammad
  • Harold Murra
  • Dave Neal
  • Peggy Pettit
  • Nsoki Phambu
  • Natasha Plant
  • Helen Ralston
  • Raymond Richardson
  • Linda Robare
  • Cheryl Seay
  • Arthur Sharp
  • Cheryl Watts
  • Janice Williams
  • Michael Williamson
  • Tameka Winston
  • Sandy Woodruff
  • Phil Yan

 5 Years

  • Zellina Anderson
  • Dorjsuren Badamdorj
  • Larry Baker
  • Alonzo Beene
  • Deborah Bellamy
  • Domont Bills
  • Pamela Bobo
  • Kenyatta Bradford
  • Mark Brinkley
  • Amanda Brown
  • Deo Chimba
  • Roni Christian
  • Gregory Clapp
  • Glenn Clay
  • Craig Clifford
  • Dijon Daniels
  • Samuel Dare
  • Jason de Koff
  • Kelley Frady
  • Cynthia Gadsden
  • Solomon Haile
  • Patricio Jara
  • Perry Lewis
  • Rhonda McClain
  • Rosalyn Mccullough
  • Franchetta Miller
  • Rebecca Moore
  • Cynthia Murillo
  • Jennifer Nelson
  • Shirley Nix-Davis
  • Jeffrey Parker
  • Paul Peterson
  • Robert Regan
  • Melissa Richie
  • Edward Sanders
  • Sasikiran Sangireddy
  • Sachin Shetty
  • George Smith
  • Sharon Smith
  • Billy Smith, Jr.
  • James Stephens
  • Richard Stone
  • Qi Tang
  • Tammy Taylor
    Celestine Terry
  • John Tiller
  • LeJeun Watson
  • Learotha Williams
  • Joy Williams
  • Zakiyah Williams
  • Holly Williams-McMahan

 

 

 

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 45 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 Professor Lands Half Million-Dollar Award as Part of USDA Food Safety Grants

Research to focus on preventing foodborne illnesses in consumers

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A professor with the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences at Tennessee State University has received a $500,000 USDA grant to research new ways of preventing foodborne illness and increase the safety of the food production industry.

Dr. Ankit Patras
Dr. Ankit Patras

Dr. Ankit Patras, assistant professor of Agriculture Science received the grant as part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s $19 million funding awards, including more than $6.7 million for antimicrobial resistance studies to 36 universities across the country including Tennessee State, through the Agriculture and Food Research Food Safety Challenge.

The AFRI Food Safety Challenge is an annual round of federal funding that, according to the USDA, “promotes and enhances the scientific discipline of food safety, with an overall aim of protecting consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur during all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption.”

Patras’ project, titled “Steering Innovation for Treatment of Liquid Foods to Eliminate Pathogenic Microbes and Toxins Using Low Wave-length UV Irradiation,” will aim to improve the consistency and effectiveness of UV treatments of liquid foods like juice and milk. If successful, the new and improved techniques developed by this research will extend to the food industry and allow for the less expensive, more energy efficient UV treatments to replace traditional heat treatments like pasteurization. This project is supported in part by the Aquafine Corporation, Valencia, California.

“This project will enhance the understanding of irradiation processes and accurate UV dose delivery in different liquid foods,” Patras said. “This will effectively minimize the risk of infections stemming from food contaminations.” Additionally, Patras noted that the project will “foster long-term cooperation, knowledge exchange among students, and integration between academia and industry.”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, recognized the opportunity for TSU the grant and the technologies will create.

“It feels great to receive this prestigious award from NIFA/USDA,” Patras said. “This will expand and strengthen our Food Bioscience and Technology program at TSU, allowing us to develop cutting-edge optical technologies and offer customized solutions to many of today’s disinfection problems in the food industry.”

 

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 Titans Safety Chris Hope Says Education, Not Football, is the Pathway to Success

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It sometimes takes one bright student who has been through the “trenches” to get the message across to another smart student about the pathway to a successful future.

Chris Hope
Chris Hope

That’s what happened at Tennessee State University today when the University’s Honors students got a message they will not soon forget. The “unlikely messenger” – Tennessee Titans Safety Chris Hope. Although the Super Bowl winner and former Pittsburgh Steeler has amassed wealth, fortune and recognition as an NFL player, he was not at TSU to talk about football.

“Education is what I am here to talk about,” said 12-year NFL veteran and Pro Bowler with the Titans, who was asked to make a statement at the Honors Day Convocation. “I have always loved playing football, but I never forgot about the importance of a quality education as something to fall back on. The average span of an NFL career is three years. I always knew I was just one hit away from permanent injury. I have been fortunate to play for 12 years, but what if my playing had been cut short and I did not have the education to cope?”

That question left Jaquantey Bowens, of Indianapolis, to rethink his approach in preparing for the future. Although the freshman Cell Biology major with a perfect 4.0 grade point average said he is not much on athletics, Hope’s lecture on education and success hit a nerve.

“I study hard and meet all of my course objectives, but listening to him (Hope) makes me want to work even harder,” said Bowens who wants to be a cardiologist because heart disease is prevalent in his family.

When it comes to educational preparedness as something to fall back on, Hope knows what he is talking about. Considered a proven leader and instrumental in the development of young players in the Titans defense, the Rock Hill, South Carolina native was a top honor student at Florida State University, where he graduated in three and half years with a 4.0 GPA.

“Even though I loved football and was a top player in college, I took my education very seriously and I am glad to see you all doing that. Football has made me millions, given me fame, but when I can stand before great people and speak without feeling intimidated, that’s because of my education,” Hope said.

IMG_2926
President Glenda Glover, right, assisted by Dr. Coreen Jackson, director of the Honors Program, presents the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship to Lauren Wiggins, a Health Sciences major with a 3.7 GPA from Atlanta.

TSU President Glenda Glover thanked Hope for his words of encouragement and congratulated the honorees for their academic excellence.

“Thank you for speaking to these exceptional students,” President Glover said. “As an honor student yourself when you were at Florida State, these students can relate to you.” She congratulated the more than 2,400 students with GPAs of 3.0 and above for their “outstanding achievement.”

“As honor students you are defined by your aptitude, and your achievement demonstrates pride in TSU,” she added.

At the start of the convocation, President Glover led a moment of silence for former TSU Honors student and SGA President, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., who died Friday of a massive heart attack and stroke at age 70.

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 8.56.58 AM
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.

CHECK
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.

2014-08-06 22.01.09
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.

2014-08-06 21.24.26
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.