$1 million FedEx donation, scholarship awards highlight Southern Heritage Classic

Memphis, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – While the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis is a time for festivities, reunions, and football, for Tennessee State University, it’s also an opportunity to seek scholarship support for deserving students, as well as recruit some of the city’s top high school graduates. And this year’s return to the classic – after a break caused by the pandemic – was no different.

President Glenda Glover talks to Jailen Leavell, reporter with CBS affiliate WJTV Channel 12 in Jackson, Mississippi, about student achievement at TSU. Leavell is a May graduate of TSU. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

During halftime of the big match up between TSU and Jackson State University on Sept. 11, Memphis-based corporate giant FedEx, a longtime TSU partner, presented the university with a $1 million check. By the end of the four-day Classic weekend, TSU President Glenda Glover had awarded scholarships totaling $1 million to 55 Shelby County high school students to attend the university, which will also use the funds from FedEx for scholarship support and other student needs.

“Our goal has always been to attract the best and brightest, as well as help students with financial needs complete their education,” Glover said. “We are so grateful for our partnership with FedEx that has resulted in internships and employment opportunities, as well as leadership development training for our students. This donation will help many students achieve their lifelong dream of earning a college degree.” 

More than 46,000 fans packed the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to watch the TSU Tigers take on the JSU Tigers in the Southern Heritage Classic. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

TSU ended up losing to Jackson State 38-16 in front of more than 46,000 fans at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. But top TSU graduate, Jailen Leavell, said he was not disappointed. 

“I sure would have loved for us to win the football game, but it is very pleasing to know that funds received, and efforts made at the Classic will help so many students receive their education,” said Leavell, a May communications graduate, who works for CBS affiliate WJTV Channel 12 in Jackson, Mississippi.  

Dianna Williams, CEO of Dianna M. Williams, Inc., right, presents a check for $15,000 to the Sophisticate Ladies, an auxiliary group of the TSU Aristocrat of Bands. Receiving the check are, from left, Dr. Reginald McDonald, Band Director; and Melaneice Gibbs, Coach of the Sophisticated Ladies. (Photo by Andre Bean)

“The preparation that TSU gave me was amazing. The fact that in five months of graduating I am working, that goes to show that the scholarship money, donations, and programs at the university are making a difference.” 

Tre’veon Hayes, a junior elementary education major from Memphis, who attended one of President Glover’s recruitment fairs as a high school senior, extolled Dr. Glover for continuing to use the Classic to shine a light on the needs of students from his community. 

“President Glover does everything to push students to be motivated,” said Hayes, who serves as the current Mister Junior at TSU. “I am grateful to her for her investment, which is giving somebody in my community a chance to succeed.” 

The TSU Aristocrat of Bands kicks off the halftime show at the Southern Heritage Classic. (photo by TSU Media Relations)

Also receiving a financial donation at the classic was the TSU Aristocrat of Bands. Businesswoman Dianna Williams, CEO of Dianna M. Williams, Inc., donated a $15,000 check to the AOB’s auxiliary group, the Sophisticated Ladies, to be used for immediate needs.

Following a cancellation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Classic was seen as a clash of NFL stars featuring legendary running back and new TSU Tigers head coach Eddie George, and Hall of Fame defensive back Deon Sanders in his second year as coach of the JSU Tigers. 

But this year’s battle of the Tigers also brought out the barbecue pits, and the battle between the Aristocrat of Bands and Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South.  

TSU leads JSU with the most wins, 17-11, since the Classic started in 1990. 

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.