101-year-old former cheerleader still full of spirit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – At 101, Burnece Walker Brunson is still full of life.

“I just keep on breathing,” Brunson said during a recent interview at her Nashville home.

Burnece Walker Brunson at her Nashville home. (photo by John Cross, TSU Public Relations)

Brunson is one of the grand marshal’s for Tennessee State University’s 2016 Homecoming. She is a member of the affinity chapter, which is comprised of alumni cheerleaders as far back as 1934. Brunson was a member of then-Tennessee A&I College’s cheerleading squad from 1934-1935.

“I was fortunate that I was able to go to A&I,” she said. “It was just a wonderful place to be.”

Brunson, a native of Mount Pleasant, Tenn., moved to Chicago for a better education. There, she got her first taste of cheerleading while in high school.

“It fulfilled my desire to stay physically active since there were not many sporting activities for girls during those days,” she said.

After high school, Brunson decided to attend TSU (A&I College) in 1933. The following year she joined the cheerleading team.

In 1936, Brunson received her teaching certificate and eventually went back to Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Chicago Teacher’s College, and a master’s degree from the National College of Education in Evansville, Ill.

While in Chicago, Brunson was the first female hired there to serve as a lifeguard.

Picture of a young Burnece Brunson (standing, far left) and her father, mother, brother and three sisters. (photo by John Cross, TSU Public Relations)

Brunson would later return to Tennessee and make Nashville her home; the place where she developed unforgettable collegiate memories.

“I’m really looking forward to (this year’s) homecoming,” Brunson said.

She will be honored at several homecoming events, and a cheerleader scholarship has been established in her name.

“She’s a very educated, and devoted person,” said Kevin T. Davis, president of the TSUNAA Alumni Cheerleaders. “We just felt that we needed to honor her in that way.”

Dwight Pope, TSU’s spirit coordinator, agreed.

“She’s participated in activities from homecoming to just regular games,” Pope said. “It’s a great honor to have a legacy, a legend, to still be around at 101 years old and be a part of our program.”

Brunson’s son, Boyce, said he’s sure many people are looking forward to seeing his mother; and gleaning her wisdom.

“After you have a conversation with her, you realize she’s not just 101 years old, but she has 101 years of experience that is valuable even in today’s world.”

Brunson has tried to spread that wisdom in one of about a dozen books she’s written, including Food for Thought: Nourishment for the Soul, which gives tips on how to navigate life’s challenges.

When asked what advice she would give people today, especially youngsters, she smiled, then replied:

“Do the right thing, in every way.”

To find out more about Homecoming 2016, visit www.tnstate.edu/homecoming.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
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Nashville, Tennessee 37209

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.