TSU to change lives of young adults with intellectual disabilities, receives $284,000 in grant award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received $284,000 from the TN Department of Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), becoming the first public institution in Middle Tennessee and HBCU in the nation to offer the program.

A check presentation took place Tuesday morning as DIDD commissioner Brad Turner and his team joined TSU President Glenda Glover, Dr. Anita McGaha, TSU director of disability services, Rep. Harold Love Jr., Senator Brenda Gilmore and staff for the historic event.

Dr. Anita McGaha, TSU director of disability services, says the TigerEDGE Program will help students succeed. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU’s grant will be spread over two years to create TigerEDGE (Educate, Develop, and Grow for Employability) a non-degree certificate program for students ages 18-26.

“We are fulfilling our mission to provide a college education and experience to a population that is often overlooked and underserved,” said President Glover. “We are indeed proud. We will work to change the lives of the program participants and their families.”

Commissioner Turner, who stated that he is a parent of a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), said it is an honor to present the grant to TSU. “It speaks value about the importance you see in students with disabilities and creating a brighter future for them,” he said.

“Once again Tennessee State is leading the charge … inclusive education is the key for all,” said Rep. Harold Love Jr. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Turner said being able to tell students that there is a public institution suitable for their education is the beginning of something great. “There are schools that you can go to that believe you have every right to have a 4-year college degree if that is what you want to do. And TSU is once again, leading that in higher education.”

Dr. McGaha said the program is currently targeting enrollment of eight students for the Fall semester. The unique program will provide the students with a residential and academic ambassador on campus, and mentors to assist the selected students.

“We all want to see our students, our children to succeed in life and we believe that this program is a tool to provide that,” Dr. McGaha said.

President Glenda Glover speaking with Andy Kidd, Deputy Commissioner of Fiscal and Administrative Services. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU is among four higher education institutions to receive the Tennessee Believes grant from DIDD, which is a program that provides funding to colleges to create or expand post-secondary opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For more information about the TigerEDGE Program or how to apply, contact Dr. McGaha at [email protected].

Vice President Kamala Harris leaves students inspired after powerful commencement address at TSU, telling them to be the change the world needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – “To know that she will forever be a part of my TSU history, and to be inducted as an official member of the Tiger family was a tremendous honor to witness.” That statement sums up how Derrick Sanders felt Saturday after hearing Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic and powerful commencement address at Hale Stadium on the main Tennessee State University campus. The Vice President told graduates to seize the opportunities afforded them to “shape the future of our country.” 

Students flock to Vice President Kamala Harris’ side in jubilation to get selfies, as she enters Hale Stadium accompanied by President Glenda Glover. (Submitted Photo)

“Vice President Harris accepted not only the honorary doctorate degree but she accepted the love, worth and fellowship of this great institution,” added Sanders, outgoing president of the Student Government Association, who received his bachelor’s degree in English. 

Sanders was not alone in his praise of the vice president’s visit and speech. From the rousing cheers that greeted her as the motorcade entered Hale Stadium, to her inspirational speech, and receiving an honorary degree, sentiments about the vice president have reverberated across the TSU family, graduates, and their families. All are still taking in the historic moment where they got to hear and see the vice president of the United States up close on their campus. 

Derrick Sanders, of Cincinnati, Ohio, celebrates after receiving his bachelor’s degree in English. (Submitted Photo)

Sanders’ mother, Marlene Sanders, who came from Cincinnati, Ohio, to see her son receive his degree from the vice president, described the moment as life changing. 

“I was really proud of what Vice President Harris and Dr. Glover did together – two Black women with one goal,” said the proud mother. “I appreciated that she stayed through unforeseen circumstances and took pictures with each graduate. Her words were receptive, appreciative, and encouraging.” 

Vice President Kamala Harris congratulates Student Trustee Tiara Thomas after receiving her degree in political science. (Submitted Photo)

Tiara Thomas, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, whose parents were also in the audience to see her receive her degree in political science, added, “Having Vice President Harris as the keynote speaker was an incredible way to end my undergraduate experience. Her speech gave me chills as I was able to sit on stage with her and see my future possibilities in her.” 

Frederick Parson, a TSU alum and Tiara Thomas’ father, said the vice president’s speech was genuine, relatable, and appropriate. 

Tiara Thomas’ family traveled from Olive Branch, Mississippi, to celebrate her graduation from Tennessee State University. (Submitted Photo)

“It not only inspired the graduates but also those in the audience, like my two youngest daughters who look like she does.  Kudos to the VP for sharing a special moment in time with us that we won’t forget,” Parson said. 

The vice president’s visit to deliver the commencement address at TSU was historic, as it was her first at any university since taking over the second highest office in the land.  Citing current domestic and global affairs, Harris reminded members of the Class of 2022 that they are “graduating in an unsettled world” but were equipped to be the change agents needed to make it better for all people.  

That note struck a chord with Matthew C. Benton, of Atlanta, who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

It was all jubilation Saturday as students celebrated their graduation. (Submitted Photo)

“The speech was as inspirational and empowering as I imagined it would be, and was exactly what I needed to hear,” Benton said. “I’m thankful to have had a university President like Dr. Glover with the right connections and friendships to bring Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, to our campus to give the keynote address. I’m forever grateful to President Glenda Glover. My commencement day is a very special part of TSU history, thank you President Glover.”

Jacqueline Payne was also in the audience to see her son, Emmanuel Wallace, receive his degree in agribusiness. 

“I was extremely proud to see my son along with his peers graduating, and seeing Kamala made me really feel Black Excellence in its rawest form,” Payne said. Her son, Emmanuel Wallace, agreed. 

Emmanuel Wallace’s mother, Jacqueline Payne, was in the audience to see her son receive his degree in agribusiness. (Subitted Photo)

“Graduating among such a successful and ambitious class is very empowering,” Wallace said. “Having the first black female vice president of the United States deliver our commencement speech while encouraging us to be the change in the world was exceedingly inspirational.” 

Jodyn White-Rowell, whose family members traveled from Delaware, Georgia, and Florida to see her receive her bachelor’s degree in agricultural science, said she was inspired.

Jodyn White-Rowell, who received her degree in agricultual science, celebrates with her mother Kimberly White-Rowell. (Submitted Photo)

“Seeing Vice President Kamala Harris, someone who pushes boundaries and inspires others to chase their dreams, come to speak to us encourages me to continue to follow my dreams and push boundaries that are set in front of me,” she said.

Jodyn’s mother, Kimberly White-Rowell, added, “We were so excited to see our daughter and the other graduates walk across the stage. We were also so inspired by President Glover and the commencement speech from VP Kamala Harris who spoke to the heart of all the students, calling the next generation of change agents to the world stage. I can’t wait to see what they all become as educated graduates of TSU.”

You can view the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement on the TSU YouTube channel by visiting tnstate.edu.

TSU alumni cap off historic commencement with $2.8 million donation to University, including $300,000 presented over the weekend

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Vice President Kamala Harris wasn’t the only thing that made students and family cheer and applaud on Saturday, May 7 during the Tennessee State University Spring Undergraduate Commencement. Without a doubt, Vice President Harris was the main attraction as the crowd roared with excitement as she arrived at Hale stadium. The audience hung on every word of her dynamic and historic commencement address. However, the second loudest cheers were for the TSU Vintagers as University President Glenda Glover announced their $300,000 donation for student scholarships. With the gift, the group’s contribution to the institution has totaled more than $2.8 million since July 2019. 

Each Spring Commencement, as part of their week-long events, Vintagers dress in caps and gowns and join the ceremony to relive their graduation day. (Submitted photo)

“We thank you for your generosity and commitment to continue to think of TSU often, to work for TUS’s continued growth and development, and to serve TSU for many more years to come,” said TSU President Glover.  

On commencement eve, TSU Vintagers – a group of individuals who graduated from the institution 40 years or more ago – presented President Glover with the $300,000 check for scholarships and other University needs. 

Barbara Murrell, of the class of 1960, was among those who presented the check to President Glover. She said Vintagers are glad to return to the “Land of Golden Sunshine” each year to demonstrate their support of the institution and students through scholarships. She hailed President Glover for the choice of Vice President Kama Harris as the commencement speaker. 

President Glenda Glover presents a special award to Dr, Katie Kinnard White, member of the Class of 1952, as the oldest living Vintager. Dr, White is 90 years old. (Submitted photo)

“It was a glorious and historic day at TSU as Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America, congratulated and empowered graduates with a message of reality, high expectations, possibilities and hope,” said Murrell, who was a senior administrator at the university for many years. 

Following the vice president’s address, the Golden Vintagers, highlighting 50 years of service to TSU since graduating, were next on the program to cross the stage. Each received a certificate of appreciation.  

Newly inducted Vintager Ronald Ashley, class agent for the class of 1980, said planned activities for the past years were put off because of the pandemic, but considering the well-planned events culminating with the appearance of the Vice President, “it was well worth the wait.” 

“To come back to TSU face-to-face with the members of all the other classes, the energy that we all felt and the love for the school and being able to see and hear what other alums have done within their class as far as their financial donation, was just overwhelming,” Ashley said. “I was just filled with emotion and joy yesterday as we sat in Hale Stadium and witnessed the vice president of the United States of America come to our campus, our stage to address the graduates as well as the Tennessee State family. That was truly special.”

Vintager Class Agents present donations from their individual groups, (Submitted photo)

The Vintagers’ donations and other charitable gifts to the university are managed by the TSU Foundation to support literary, scientific, educational, scholarship, charitable and development purposes and goals at the university. 

Dr. Grandville Sawyer, an alumnus and coordinator of alumni affairs, came up with the name Vintagers in 1962, on the 50th anniversary of the university. The program is now in its 70th year. Each spring commencement, members return and hold different functions. On graduation day, they dress in caps and gowns and join the ceremony to relive their graduation day. They also induct new members, as well as celebrate those entering their “golden” years (70, 71, 72) of graduation. This year’s newly inducted members are from the classes of ’80, ’81, and ’82. 

This year, a key highlight of the Vintagers’ events was the celebration of the oldest living member, Dr. Katie Kinnard White, member of the class of 1952, who is 90 years old. 

Debbi Howard, Director of Alumni Relations, welcomes Vintagers to their annual class reunion ceremony, (Submitted Photo)

Debbi Howard, director of Alumni Relations, said Vintagers reunions offer a rich tradition of reconnecting classmates with their alma mater, as well as reflecting on the tremendous impact TSU has made on their life. 

“We are glad that this reunion, like all of those in the past, gave you the opportunity to rekindle many lifelong friendships, as well as reminisce on the people, places and events that made your experience at TSU so memorable,” Howard said. She thanked her staff, alumni and volunteers who helped to make the Vintagers’ week successful.

You can view the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement, including the Golden Vintagers ceremony on the TSU YouTube channel by visiting tnstate.edu.

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers dynamic, historic commencement address at TSU, receives honorary degree 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – “I’m now a Tiger!”

Vice President Kamala Harris cheered as she received an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Tennessee State University after addressing nearly 600 undergraduates at the Spring 2022 commencement ceremony.

As an official member of the TSU Alumni Family, Vice President Kamala Harris joins President Glenda Glover, and University officials for the University Alma Mater song to end a historic commencement day. (Photo submitted)

Harris was hooded by TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover as the crowd looked on, including University trustees, cabinet members and mayors John Cooper of Nashville and Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, AL. 

The historic moment took place Saturday at TSU’s Hale Stadium shortly
after Harris addressed the graduates with a heartfelt commencement
speech, marking this as her first address at a University and HBCU as Vice President of the United States.

Graduate Matthew Benton, who now has a degree in business administration, said that the historic event was as inspirational as he imagined.

“I’m thankful to have had a university President like Dr. Glover with the right connections and friendships to bring Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, to our campus to give the keynote address.”

Tennessee State University graduate Matthew Benton after receiving a degree in business administration . (Photo submitted)

As a fellow HBCU graduate of Howard University, Harris gave the students a chance to mirror the person they can one day become.

The Vice President celebrated the 2022 graduates’ through their trials, mentioning the challenges of obtaining a degree through the COVID-19 pandemic, fundamental principles, and racial inequalities. 

Harris stated that the graduates are more than just a class of 2022 but graduates that the United States need in the near future.

“I look at this unsettled world, and yes I see the challenges, but I am here to tell you, I also see the opportunities. The opportunities for your leadership. The future of our country and our world will be shaped by you.”

The dark skies looming over Hale stadium didn’t stop Harris’ words of encouragement to shine through as she spoke value to more than one thousand attendees.

“You are fueled by self-determination,” she said. “Students from all over the world come here because they have big dreams.”

About 15-mintues into her speech, Harris’ shared a story regarding the first time she flew on the vice-presidential helicopter.

TSU graduate in crowd of students, smiling during spring commencement. (Photo submitted)

She looked out the window as the helicopter circled over her alma-mater and saw her 17-year-old self again toting books around campus.

“At a place just like this,” she smiled.

“That reinforced that I can be anything. Do anything. Even if it had never been done before,” she said as the crowd cheered.

“Like you, and full of hope and full of dreams with a future full of possibility. I stand before you today as the Vice President of America and as a proud graduate of an HBCU to say, there is no limit to your capacity of greatness.”

 

Vice President Kamala Harris smiles with TSU student on stage during historic Spring 2022 commencement day. (Photo submitted)

Harris reassured the graduates who will embark on a new journey, that their time at TSU has unlocked unimaginable opportunities.

“There is no barrier you cannot break,” she said, noting that the graduate’s perspective and experience will make the United States a stronger country. She mentioned that there will be a time that the graduates will walk into a room where no one else may look like them.

“And at that moment you must remember, you are not in that room alone. Always know that you carried the voices of everyone here and those upon the shoulders you stand,” Harris comforted the students.

A little piece of advice to the graduates from Harris: Be true to yourself.

 

Tennessee State University graduate Derrick Sanders Jr., after receiving a degree English. (Photo submitted)

Graduate Derrick Sanders, Jr., who now has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English, said that Harris telling the students to live in the moment, is what resonated with him most.

“To know now that she will forever be a part of my TSU history, and to be inducted as an official member of the Tiger Family was a tremendous honor to witness.”

As Harris is the first woman, and first person of color as Vice President of the United States, she closed out her commencement speech with a phrase her late-mother always told her.

Kamala, you may be the first to do many things … make sure you are not the last.

“I have been many first in my lifetime and as I look out at all of you today, I know I will not be the last,” Harris told the TSU graduates.

“Your country is so proud of you.” “May God bless you and may God bless America.”

The Biden-Harris Administration has invested $5.8 billion in resources and the reissuance of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. In March, President Biden announced TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover would serve as Vice Chair of President Biden’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.

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.

Vice President Harris to Deliver Commencement Address at Tennessee State University

Friday, May 6, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Nashville, Tennessee where she will deliver the undergraduate commencement address at Tennessee State University. The commencement ceremony will take place at Hale Building Stadium on Saturday, May 7th. Vice President Harris will be joined by TSU President Glenda Glover, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, and Nashville Mayor John Cooper. There, she will also accept an honorary Doctorate of Humane Laws. Vice President Harris will speak to more than 500 graduates about the opportunity and responsibility of leadership in this moment in history. She will discuss how the world needs them and their individual perspectives to help shape the principles that will define the future. She will also talk about how her own experiences—including as a fellow graduate of a Historically Black College or University (HBCU)—have influenced the way she views the world.

Vice President Harris’ participation in Tennessee State University’s graduation ceremonies comes after a year and a half of historic investments by the Biden-Harris Administration in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including $5.8 billion in resources and the reissuance of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. In March, President Biden announced TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover would serve as Vice Chair of President Biden’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs

As a graduate of Howard University, Vice President Harris understands first-hand the critical role of HBCUs in strengthening our country and developing future leaders, and has prioritized visiting HBCUs and meeting with HBCU leaders. Vice President Harris has visited Hampton University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Howard University, and as recently as this month met with Thurgood Marshall Fund Presidents and Chancellors.

On January 20, 2021, Vice President Harris became the first Vice President to have graduated from an HBCU. On Saturday, May 7th, she will become the first sitting Vice President to have graduated from HBCU to deliver the keynote address at an HBCU’s Commencement. 

Vice President Harris will also deliver the keynote address during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Commencement Exercises on May 18th in New London, Connecticut. In 2021, she delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Excerpts from Vice President Harris’ Remarks as Prepared

“Each of you has your own story. Your own way of looking at the world, shaped by every moment that brought you to this point. I was around your age when I made the decision that I wanted to take on systemic problems from inside the system. That I would seek solutions through the lens of my own experiences and perspectives. That I wanted—that I needed—to be in the rooms where decisions were being made. Graduates, you stand on the brink of a new frontier… and we need you in the room helping to make these decisions.”

“I stand before you today—as the Vice President of the United States of America, and as a proud graduate of a HBCU—to say: There is no limit to your capacity for greatness. There is no obstacle you cannot overcome. There is no barrier you cannot break.

“I want you to always remember that you are not alone. That you come from people. That you come with people. Because I promise you, there will be a time when you walk into a boardroom, or a courtroom, or maybe even the Situation Room. You will walk into the room, and find that you are the only person there who looks like you or has had your life experience. At that moment, you must remember you are not in that room alone.”

Doctorate of Humane Laws

Tennessee State University’s Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree recognizes individuals who inspire others, personify excellence, integrity, and commitment, and enhance the public good. According to TSU, “Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the first female and first person of color in her capacity as the Vice President of the United States of America, and as such makes her an excellent recipient for this award.  For these accomplishments and more, Vice President Harris will be presented with the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.”

Notable individuals who have received the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tennessee State University include: Coach Ed Temple, TSU and Olympic Track and Field Coach, considered the greatest track and field coach of all times; Rev. Al Sharpton, Civil Rights Leader and Motivational Speaker; and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Author and Motivational Speaker.

Biden-Harris Administration’s Accomplishment on HBCUs

  • The American Rescue Plan included $3.7 billion to help HBCUs support students’ basic needs during pandemic, support campus operations, staffing, teaching, and educational programs; and keep campus safe from COVID.
  • The Department of Education announced $1.6 billion of debt discharged from loans provided to HBCUs institutions in April 2021.
  • The Department of Education awarded more than $500 million in grant funding to HBCUs for academic capacity-building and fiscal stability.
  • In September 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order to re-establish the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs and issued a proclamation recognizing National HBCU Week.
  • During HBCU week 2022, President Biden also named Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, as Chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.
  • In response to bomb threats earlier this year at over 50 HBCU campuses, the Administration announced Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grants for HBCUs that have recently experienced a bomb threat. The $50,000 -$150,000 Project SERV grants could be used for mental health services or improvements to security and readiness infrastructure for impacted Universities.

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University was founded in 1912 and is Nashville’s only public university and a historically black university. TSU offers 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.  Tennessee State University received $58.5 in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds from the American Rescue Plan.

TSU gears up for Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic commencement address as excitement builds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University officials say the campus is all a buzz as the 2022 Spring Commencement ceremonies kicked off on Friday and continues this morning with Vice President Kamala Harris. Vice President Harris will deliver the keynote address at the Undergraduate Spring Commencement ceremony at 9 a.m., at Hale Stadium.

“Overjoyed is an understatement to how I feel about Vice President Kamala Harris delivering the keynote address,” says Tiara Thomas, student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in political science.

“I am so grateful to have a woman like Vice President Harris who has been exactly where I’ve been, step by step, as an HBCU grad, and is where I’d like to be someday. This has pushed my TSU experience over the top.” 

Mallory Moore, a Birmingham native and outgoing Miss TSU, added, “I am super excited to have as my commencement speaker the most distinguished HBCU alumnus in the United States.” Moore is receiving her undergraduate degree in health science.

Sydnei Everett’s graduation is still a year away, but the first-year graduate student is among many like her who wish they were graduating Saturday. 

“I looked on Instagram and saw that TSU had posted the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies and I said, ‘wait a minute, is that Vice President Kamala Harris?’ She’s actually speaking to the Class of 2022,” Everett says. “I wish that was my class. I look up to Kamala Harris a lot. Not only is she my sorer, but just a prominent figure for black women today.” 

Derrick Sanders, the outgoing Student Government Association president, who will receive his bachelor’s degree in English on Saturday, sums up all the excitements this way: “Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to TSU as the commencement speaker is a chance for students to see who they have the ability to be, hear from one who sat in the same seat as they, and be inspired by one of the most distinguished HBCU alumni in the United Stated of America. This opportunity speaks volume to the fact that anything is possible if you have the right mind.” 

You must have a ticket to attend today’s commencement with Vice President Harris. Graduates received 10 tickets for the event. Nearly 600 graduates are expected to walk across the stage. On Friday, Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin was the keynote speaker for the Graduate Commencement ceremony. Music industry giants and mega producers Dallas Austin and Sir James the Baptist received honorary doctoral degrees along with PhD and master’s candidates. 

For more information on https://www.tnstate.edu/records/commencement/

Graduating seniors are excited with anticipation about the historic visit to mark this major milestone in their lives.

 

Music industry award-winning artist, producers Dallas Austin and Sir the Baptist to receive honorary degrees from TSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University officials will award honorary degrees to two music industry artists and producers at the university’s 2022 spring graduate commencement on Friday, May 6.

Dallas Austin and Sir Williams James Baptist, award-winning song writers, artists, and producers, will receive the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of their contributions to the arts. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin will be the speaker for the graduate commencement.

Dallas Austin is a Grammy award-winning producer and 2019 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. (Photo submitted)

Dallas Austin, Grammy award-winning producer, is a 2019 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has over 50 Billboard Hot 100 records to his credit and a multitude of awards. Austin also has produced a pair of successful movies based on his own experiences growing up in Georgia —the 2002 “Drumline” and 2006 “ATL.”   

Sir the Baptist is a multi-disciplinary Christian American artist, two-time Grammy award-nominated writer, producer, BET Award nominee and winner of BMI 2021 Songwriter of the Year. 

He called receiving an honorary degree his greatest accomplishment of all time.

Sir Williams James Baptist is a multi-disciplinary Christian American artist, two-time Grammy award-nominated writer, and winner of BMI 2021 Songwriter of the Year. (Photo submitted)  

“To know that TSU appreciates my hard work as far as my career and Dallas’ career, we’re overwhelmed,” Sir the Baptist said.  “I think it is amazing. You work your entire life, and you may not feel like you’re as collegiate as the students who earn it, so you don’t quite feel like you deserve it,” he said, noting how humble and appreciative he is for the opportunity.

Sir the Baptist said his mother, and Austin’s mother, are both proud of this milestone. “No matter what song we worked on, no matter how big it got, our parents wanted us to graduate.”

Austin landed his first placement with “Cover Girl” for Princess & Starbreeze in 1987. From “Unpretty” and “Cool” to “Mowtownphilly” and “FourFiveSeconds,” Austin went on to craft hits for the likes of Another Bad Creation, Boyz II Men, TLC, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and most recently Cedric Gervais, Kodie Shane and Klondie Blonde.

“Regardless of what it is, I want to create things that resonate with people and bring positivity,” Austin said. “Creating music, film, and art is the best way for me to help others and really do some good.”

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Frank Stevenson, who is also chair of the honorary degree committee, stated that having these two as honorees is a once in a lifetime opportunity for TSU.

“Both are in the music industry with an amazing array of acclaims and accomplishments in that space.” Stevenson said.

The Director and Assistant Director of TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands (AOB) Dr. Reginald McDonald and Dr. Larry Jenkins, couldn’t agree more.

Jenkins stated that Sir the Baptist and Austin has been connecting with AOB this semester through the Artist and Residency Program to provide new outlets for the students.

McDonald and Jenkins both stated that Austin and Sir the Baptist are not only influential to the band, but also to HBCU culture.

“I see their connection (with TSU) being a forever connection,” Jenkins said. “I think this collaboration propels TSU into some new spaces. The sets of eyes that will be on TSU will be amazing.” 

McDonald stated that the two being awarded at the commencement, along with having future networking opportunities will be monumental for TSU.

“It is almost like that next level of recognition,” McDonald said. “This is (a) huge, remarkable experience for our kids.”

The ceremony will take place in the Gentry Center Complex located on the main campus at 5 p.m., and will be livestreamed at www.tnstate.edu/livestream

The event will follow COVID-19 guidelines and face mask are recommended. Hand sanitizer and mask will be provided.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
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615.963.5331

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 seven 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.

“We are proud to partner with TSU:” Kroger donates $100,000 in scholarship aid to College of Agriculture

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Four Tennessee State University College of Agriculture students will be $25,000 richer in scholarship aid, thanks to Kroger.

President Glenda Glover speaks with Sonya Hostetler, President of Kroger Nashville Division at the check presentation ceremony. (Photo by Janiece Pigg)

The University and the retail giant will establish the Kroger Scholarship and Student Success Fund at TSU in support of first-year students pursuing degrees intending to promote careers in the agricultural and food industry and workforce development.

The grocer is awarding TSU $100,000.

As the donation will introduce TSU students to career opportunities Sonya Hostetler, the grocer’s Nashville Division President, she said looks forward to a future with the University.

“This investment reinforces Kroger’s commitment to build up the communities we serve,” Hostetler said.  “We are proud to partner with TSU to support these students and ultimately, our future workforce.”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of agriculture, speaks with Shantavia Webb, Kroger Human Resource Leader. (Photo by Janiece Pigg)

The check presentation took place in the Agriculture Biotechnology building with Kroger executives who joined President Glenda Glover, Dean and Director of Research/Administrator of Extension Chandra Reddy and TSU staff.

President Glover stated that $25,000 to start an education at TSU is a phenomenal investment for the students and the grocer.

“It plants the seed for success for our students,” Glover said. “It’s not what you do for TSU, but what you do for the board of community,” she told the Kroger executives.

During the presentation a Farm Bill scholarship recipient, TSU freshman Dacia Ringo, mentioned how grateful she is for scholarship opportunities as such.

“I know that this scholarship is going to help a lot of people like myself. Without that scholarship I wouldn’t be in school,” Ringo said.

“Thank you to everyone who made this opportunity possible.”

President Glenda Glover shares a moment with TSU freshman Dacia Ringo who is a Farm Bill scholarship recipient. (Photo by Janiece Pigg)

The colleges’ Director of Marketing and Communications Roderick Reed contacted Kroger regarding the funding opportunity and stated that he looks forward to working closely with the grocer to strengthen their relationship with TSU.

Dr. De’Etra Young, Associate Dean for Academics and Land-Grant Programs, said the donation will be beneficial to the lives of four deserving students who are seeking a career in agriculture.

“We receive inquires all the time from students seeking assistance. So this would change the impact for four students that are interested in pursuing agriculture,” Young said.

She stated that the selected students will work closely with faculty, staff and Kroger while receiving mentorship opportunities.

Over the course of 4-years throughout the undergraduate program, four selected scholars will receive up to $25,000 based on their financial needs, totaling in $100,000 in direct scholar’s aid. This is Kroger’s first donation to TSU, Young said, but she has hopes that this will become an annual gesture with additional industry partners.

“I think the college has been doing great, innovative work. So for us to receive initial recognition just confirms the work that we are doing.”

Rodrick Reed, Director of marketing and communications and De’Etra Young, Associate Dean for Academics and Land-Grant Programs De’Etra Young at Kroger check presentation. (Photo by Janiece Pigg)

Young stated that the college has a dean’s scholarship program that supports undergraduate research and internship opportunities, a program that currently has more than 40 students. While the College of Agriculture receives grant awards often, TSUAg obtained 68 competitive grants, totaling in almost $24 million last year. TSUAg was the top external funding award recipient at TSU.

In 2019 the college was awarded $100,000 from SunTrust now Truist fund agriculture education for four students, receiving $25,000 each.

Prior to, TSU was awarded $450,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for food safety research in 2018.

First-year agriculture students will be able to apply for the scholarship in Fall 2022. Eligible students must be selected through an application process that evaluates merit thresholds and relevant majors, according to Dean Chandra Reddy. Continuation of student funding will be subject to satisfactory academic progress in the field of study and any scholarship program restrictions that may apply.

Additionally, scholarship funds may be made available to assist the students with educational support such as tutoring or to ensure academic success.

For more information regarding the upcoming scholarship opportunity, internships,  and or other financial opportunities, contact Dr. De’Etra Young at (615) 963-5123 or email [email protected].

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

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 seven 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.