NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Michelle Vaughn will watch her daughter Equilla Coffee earn her degree in psychology on Saturday morning. A few minutes later, they will switch roles. Coffee will move to the stands and watch her mother receive her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.
The mother-daughter team will join nearly 500 other undergraduate and graduate students receiving degrees in various disciplines when TSU holds its fall Commencement in the Gentry Complex at 9 a.m.
For Vaughn, completing college is the fulfillment of a dream started 27 years ago, and taking the final walk with her daughter makes achieving that dream even more special.
“It is just a good feeling to know that my years of hard work have finally come to fruition,” Vaughn said. “The joy of me walking along side my daughter on the same platform is just overwhelming.”
“I could not have wished for a better graduation gift than to see my mom, not in the stands, but marching with me,” Coffee said. “She sacrificed a lot for us including putting her education aside to care for me and my siblings.”
“Putting her education aside” was just what Vaughn did, but for more reasons than to care for family. In 1988, Vaughn enrolled at TSU but before the year ended, she dropped out for no apparent reason.
“I had the opportunity to get my education earlier but I was playing and did not take advantage of it,” said Vaughn, whose mother, Georgiana Priddy, has been an employee at TSU for 46 years. “I had the chance to benefit from the university’s fee-waiver plan and get a free education since my mother works there (TSU) but I had other plans.
“I just didn’t feel like it, then I took on a full-time job and life was good.”
Somewhere inside her, however, the thought of getting an education “kept haunting me.”
In 2005, Vaughn re-enrolled, taking the minimum nine-hour course load. But this time, faced with family obligations – a husband, three children and a job – she quit school again. Not long after, in 2008, Vaughn gave education another try. This time she was determined not to turn back, said the 45-year-old.
“I felt I owed it to my children, my family and myself to persevere and complete this journey,” said Vaughn, a 16-year employee at TSU working as a senior library assistant. “It was tough, but studying and working alongside my daughter – although we were in different classes – was really a major motivation. I am glad I did it.”
Vaughn is graduating from the College of Liberal Arts with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and Coffee is receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Education.
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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.