CBS national correspondent Michelle Miller delivers Spring Commencement address, calls TSU graduates ‘survivors’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – More than 200 graduate students received degrees in various disciplines on Friday at Tennessee State University’s Spring Commencement ceremony in Hale Stadium, the first in-person ceremony in over a year.

TSU President Glenda Glover. (Photo by Michael Bennett)

Earlier this month, TSU officially announced the 2021 graduation exercises would return to campus and be held in the stadium following a year of virtual ceremonies because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The undergraduate ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, at 8 a.m. and will also be in the stadium. Former New Orleans mayor and National Urban League President Marc Morial is the keynote speaker. The ceremony will also be livestreamed:

“I applaud you for having reached such an extraordinary milestone,” TSU President Glenda Glover told the graduates Friday. “This is your day. And we will make the most of it, for tomorrow you step into the advanced TSU world as the servant leaders you have been trained to be. The servant leaders you’ve been called to be.”

CBS national correspondent Michelle Miller, the wife of Morial, was the keynote speaker at the graduate ceremony. Miller, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, has reported on numerous stories of national and international importance. She joined “CBS This Morning: Saturday” in 2018. Her work regularly appears on the “CBS Evening News,” “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Sunday Morning.” She has also appeared as a correspondent on “48 Hours.”  

Miller, who was honored by TSU for her body of work, told the graduates not to be disheartened by failure. She told them of the time she was fired from her second job, but that she bounced back and now has a successful career.

“Failure is an option, because only through failure can you succeed,” said Miller. “My toughest times have taught me that I’m a survivor. So are you. You’ve done everything that you set out to do, because you’re here. You survived … an unpredictable year.”

Michelle Miller. (Photo by Michael Bennett)

She then cited one of her favorite quotes by Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Quinetta Yvette Bartley, who received her doctorate in education leadership, said Miller’s speech was encouraging.

“I liked the part where she said she failed, but got up and kept going,” said Bartley. “That was very inspirational because in a lifetime, you’re going to fall, and it’s a learning experience at that point. I saw myself in her speech.”

While Bartley enjoyed Miller’s speech, she and the other graduates relished being able to walk across the stage and not have to watch the ceremony virtually. Those attending the ceremonies were required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Adults were strongly encouraged to have been vaccinated.

Friday’s graduate ceremony was extra special for Alexis Gant, who received an M.Ed. in human performance and sports science with a concentration in exercise science. She missed her undergrad ceremony at Georgia Southern because of a track meet.

“On top of this being the first time in over a year that we’re having in-person commencement, I’m really excited,” said Gant, who is the throw coach for TSU’s track and field team. “It’s my first time walking ever.”

After graduation, Gant will walk right into a new job she already has lined up, and she credits TSU for that.

TSU 2021 graduates. (Photo by Michael Bennett)

“I do believe that TSU has prepared me. I’ve had some great professors,” said Gant. “But I also feel it’s just the environment of TSU that’s prepared me. Because coming from a PWI (predominantly white institution), it’s a completely different playing field. And I feel like now that I’ve gotten to experience both worlds, I definitely will be able to work with multiple ranges of clientele. I’ve made more friends at TSU than I have at my alma mater, and that’s crazy.”

Graduate Mason McIntosh also credits TSU and his instructors for much of his success.

“TSU prepared me by getting me in front of the right people,” said McIntosh, who is also getting an M. Ed. In HPSS. “I’ve had great internship experiences because of TSU.”

Mason plans to pursue a doctorate in Kinesiology at Auburn University, where he’s pretty much been given a full ride. He’s also received offers from two other schools with top Kinesiology programs. Mason would eventually like to become a strength conditioning coach at the collegiate or professional level.

Note: The feature photo is by Michael Bennett

Department of Media Relations

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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