TSU expert says slow decline in Tennessee’s COVID cases not enough: ‘We need to do better’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A recent report shows that Tennessee is ranked 7th in the nation with the number of COVID-19 cases, which is a drop from number 1 and a 21 percent decrease compared to a week ago. According to the weekly State Profile Report for Tennessee released Tuesday, the state also fell to 18th in COVID deaths, dropping from 11th the previous week. 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

While this decline shows improvement, a Tennessee State University public health expert says, “We need to do better.” 

“Twenty-one percent is excellent. That means our cases have fallen, but we still have a high transmittable number,” says Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an infectious disease expert and professor and director of the public health program in the College of Health Sciences. “It still puts us in the top 10. That 21 percent is not enough to garner, ‘I don’t have anything to worry about.’ It says that we’ve done better, and we hope it continues.” 

Inman, previously the chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee, says she hopes the numbers keep declining.

“Instead of being 7th, we need to come out of the top 10,” she says. “That’s my hope. We are the volunteer state. We should be number 1 in the fewest cases.”

On what the state can do to continue the downward spiral, Inman cited efforts at Tennessee State University. She says although TSU falls in a zip code with 37 percent vaccination rate, the university is more active in encouraging solution, which is prevention.  

“TSU is encouraging our people to be healthier during this pandemic; that’s something we can be proud of. We are being positive with our population, encouraging them to get immunized. For the state, we are not doing enough. Twenty-one percent is great, but wouldn’t 70 percent be better?”  

In June, TSU, in collaboration with the Nashville Metro Public Health Department, started offering vaccines to residents 12 years old and up. The university’s student health center also stays open for COVID testing. 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, says TSU has remained very active in executing a plan to mitigate issues around COVID. He says that more than 50 percent of students living on campus have been vaccinated, and more than 3,000 of all students have been tested. The university tests an average of more than 100 students a day. 

“We are doing very well in our effort to keep the campus safe,” says Stevenson. “I think we kind of created a wall or barrier that is making it tough for the virus to spread on campus as aggressively as we’ve seen it spread in other places.” 

 Vaccines are administered Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Kean Hall on the main campus. Daily testing is also set up in Kean Hall.  

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 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.

TSU joins Secretary of State, other universities, in hosting voter registration tailgates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is doing its part to get people registered to vote during National Voter Registration Month. The university, along with Tennessee’s eight other Division I Public Universities, is working with the Secretary of State’s office to hold a voter registration drive during the tailgate before a home football game at each school. 

Secretary of State Tre Hargett participates in a student-led voter education and registration rally at TSU last September. (TSU Media Relations)

TSU is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18, when the Tigers take on Kentucky State.

“Like most Tennesseans, we love college football and the excitement of game day,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who participated in a student-led voter education and registration rally at TSU last September.

“These Voter Registration Tailgates are the perfect opportunity for us to show students and fans how easy it is to register to vote in Tennessee so that they can get in the game and make their voice heard on Election Day.”

The Voter Registration Tailgates kicked off on Sept. 11 at Tennessee Tech University, East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Voter Registration Tailgates will continue at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and TSU on Sept. 18; the University of Memphis on Saturday, Sept. 25; and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State University and Austin Peay State University on Saturday, Oct. 2.

At each tailgate, students and football fans will be guided through the registration process in minutes using the Secretary of State’s fast, easy and secure online voter registration system, GoVoteTN.gov. They will also be able to get their questions about Tennessee’s easy voting process answered by local election officials.

The Secretary of State’s office is working with students, university leadership and staff, athletic departments, student government associations, campus civic engagement organizations and local county election commissions to host the Voter Registration Tailgates.

The Voter Registration Tailgates are part of the Secretary of State’s ongoing efforts to help all eligible Tennesseans register to vote and are one of the many initiatives the office is carrying out in celebration of National Voter Registration Month.

For more information about registering to vote in Tennessee, go to GoVoteTN.gov or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

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 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.

$1 million FedEx donation, scholarship awards highlight 33rd 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 the halftime, 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 33rd Southern Heritage Classic. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

In the 33rd Southern Heritage Classic, TSU lost to Jackson State University 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

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 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.

TSU remembers former student and Freedom Rider Ernest “Rip” Patton as a fighter for justice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Ernest “Rip” Patton, a former TSU student and member of the 1960s Nashville Freedom Riders, passed on August 23. The University is remembering Patton as a stalwart of the civil rights movement who dedicated his life to fighting for equality and justice for people of color.  

President Glenda Glover says Patton was courageous and determined in his fight for justice.

Patton was buried Friday in Nashville after homegoing celebrations at Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church. He was 81. 

TSU President Glenda Glover said Patton was unyielding and showed remarkable courage in risking imprisonment, injury and even death to ensure that blacks were treated fairly. 

“From his days as a student at Tennessee State University and throughout his life, Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton was steadfast in his fight for equality and justice for African Americans,” President Glover said. “We remember him for his courage and determination to bring hope to past, present and future generations in our country and the world. The TSU family is deeply saddened about his passing but will remember him with great pride as an alumnus that made a tremendous sacrifice to make difference.  We send our heartfelt condolences to the Patton family on their loss.” 

Patton participated in the downtown Nashville civil rights sit-ins in 1960, a movement that eventually led to the desegregation of the city’s lunch counters and other public spaces. At 21 and a student at the then Tennessee A&I, Patton was among the first wave of Freedom Riders to arrive in Jackson, Mississippi, on a Greyhound bus to force the desegregation of interstate transportation facilities. The group was arrested upon arrival. 

Dr. Jerri Haynes, Dean of the College of Education, presents Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton with an award in recognition of his contribution to the fight for equality and justice as a Freedom Rider. (Submitted photo)

After the group’s release from prison, Patton and 13 other students were expelled from A&I for participating in the Freedom Ride, and never got to finish their degrees.  

Nearly 47 years later, in 2008, TSU granted the students honorary doctorate degrees. The Tennessee Board of Regents initially refused to grant the honorary degrees, but then TSU President Melvin Johnson insisted that the former students’ “extraordinary achievements” were worthy of recognition.

“These degrees serve to remind this generation of a time when young people were willing to risk their reputations, careers, freedom and lives for a higher cause,” Johnson said. 

According to the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, Patton later went on to be a jazz musician, while also remaining a vocal advocate and educator in the civil rights movement. He returned to his alma mater on occasions to talk to students about his experience as a Freedom Rider. 

Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton occasionally returned to his alma mater to talk to students about his experience as a Freedom Rider. Here he speaks to students in the College of Education during a Black History Month celebration. (Submitted photo)

At a Black History Month celebration on February 17, 2020, the College of Education honored Patton with an award for the contributions he made to the cause for equality and justice as a Freedom Rider. 

Linda Fair, coordinator of field placement and clinical experience in the TSU Department of Teacher Education and Student Service, knew Patton for more than 45 years when they sang together in the choir at Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church. Fair was also instrumental in bringing Patton to speak to students in the College of Education. 

“Rip was passionate about speaking to young people and trying to inspire them as far as the diversity that is needed in this country and all over the world,” said Fair, whose husband, John Fair – former CEO of the Urban League – was in the movement with Patton. “His (Patton) goal was to remind young people about the history of African Americans in the United States and what they went through.” 

Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton is survived by son, Michael (Bernadette) Patton; grandchildren, Alyxa Mae and Dante’ Andrew Patton; niece, Michelle (James) Holt; nephew, Charles (Debra) Patton; and other relatives and friends.

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 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.