Tag Archives: Kenneth Rolle II

TSU’s Oprah Winfrey inspires students with powerful commencement address

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Oprah! Oprah! Oprah! That was the deafening chant that permeated the 12,000-seat Hale Stadium on Saturday, as Oprah Winfrey, Tennessee State University’s most famous alumnus made her triumphant return to her alma mater as the spring undergraduate commencement speaker. The throng of exciting fans poured onto the field trying to touch, get a glimpse of Winfrey or take selfies with the former student who has gone onto to gain fame as a global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actress and author. Oprah’s speech later did not disappoint either, as many jubilant graduates, parents, alumni, and others spoke about being inspired by one of the most respected and admired figures in the world.

Lauren Graves, who graduated with honors, carries the banner for her college at the spring undergraduate commencement. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU President Glenda Glover, at end of Winfrey’s speech, conferred on her the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, as a mark of respect and honor from her university.

“Oprah is really here at my graduation, wow! This is the most exciting moment of my life,” said Lauren Graves, of Louisville, Kentucky, who received her degree in social work. “I think it is awesome to be able to see someone as successful as Oprah come back and celebrate and inspire the next generation of successful individuals. It was an honor to be able to see her today, and to know that I am part of an alumni that include her.”

Kenneth Rolle II, outgoing president of the Student Government Association and urban studies major, couldn’t hold his excitement.

Kenneth Rolle II says he is inspired by Oprah’s accomplishment and can’t wait to follow in her footstep. (photo by Aaron Grayson)

“I am motivated and inspired,” he said. “Dr. Winfrey just gave a great motivational speech about moving forward and how not to let obstacles get in our way. She gave her testimony about the obstacles she faced at TSU and how she was able to overcome them. I am very blessed to be able to follow in her footstep being a TSU alum. I can’t wait to have similar impact on the world post-graduation.”

“This has been a long time coming and to top it with Oprah, is mind blowing,” added Jada Carter, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who received her degree in accounting. “I am very excited. This feels so unreal. I love to see Oprah. She is very influential. I really look up to her. She is a very phenomenal individual. She gave an outstanding commencement speech.”

Jada Carter’s parents, mother Viola, left, and dad Henry, say bringing back Oprah as their daughter’s graduation speaker was an added motivation. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Jada’s parents, father Henry, and mom Viola, made the long trek from Milwaukee to see their daughter walk across the stage, but knowing that Oprah would be the speaker was an extra motivation, they said.

“Tennessee State has been an incredible opportunity for our daughter and bringing back Oprah as the speaker for ger graduation, is incredible and awesome,” said Viola Carter. “It is amazing that she shows the students how many opportunities are available to them. This lets our children know the greatness that they can become.”

Regina Rogers says she will apply Oprah’s speech to her life. (photo by Aaron Grayson)

“Oprah’s commencement speech was inspiring and one that will help guide us to our next level of life,” added Regina Rogers, of Nashville. She earned her degree in arts and science. “I really love her speech. I am going to take her speech and apply it to my life from here on.”

More than 600 undergraduates received degrees in various disciplines. Watch the commencement ceremony from on the TSU YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/live/vJEbMmyKG5U?feature=share.

TSU unveils plans for historic $250 million from State, model for other HBCUs

By Kelli Sharpe, Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – On the day the nation celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MLK Day, Tennessee State University shared its plans for the historic $250 million from the State of Tennessee. It is the largest one-time investment to a historically black university by a state. The funds come at a critical time as states across the nation are being held accountable even more for underfunding HBCUs. The funds are for capital improvement projects only as outlined by the State.  

University officials say long overdue repairs and upgrades are now on the way, citing many of the campus structures have gone without improvements for decades. 

TSU president, student and university leaders, local lawmakers during an unveiling for historic $250 million campus-wide infrastructure projects. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU President Glenda Glover says the much-needed funding will cover expenses for upgrades to several academic and student services buildings, in addition to the electrical and HVAC systems. 

“We are excited to share with you our plans for using this historic funding that will assist with TSU’s continued growth and campus development as we provide students with the best academic environment possible.” Glover adds. “This will allow us to enhance our campus for further sustainability as we continue our service to our students.” 

A total of six structures will see improvements, including: Boswell Science Complex, Davis Humanities Bldg., Elliott Hall, Jackson Hall, Harold Love, Sr. (LRC), and McCord Hall. University officials say they are beginning with buildings that have reached or are near their life expectancy. 

TSU student leaders spoke about the excitement of announcing the improvements to their campus as they reflected on the day honoring civil rights icon, Dr. King. 

Boswell Science Complex is one of six buildings that will be apart of structures that will see improvements at the university.

“Today we are seeing that dream come into fruition as we are seeing six buildings being renovated to uplift TSU,” says Student Government Association President Kenneth Rolle, II. “I am glad to be on this side of history to say I was here when we started this project.” 

SGA Vice President Aliyah Holmes shared the same sentiments and noted that one of the buildings slated for improvements is a major part of student life. 

“As a student … the building I am most excited about, is the Davis Humanities Building. We use that building a lot,” Holmes says. 

“We use that building for classes as well as events, and student engagement at TSU is such an important aspect. That is also another aspect that keeps students wanting to come here. I want to applaud Dr. Glover … and our executive cabinet for being able to advocate and listen to the student body.” 

During the unveiling SGA president Kenneth Rolle, II says he is glad to be on this side of history to say, “I was here when we started this project.” (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Gov. Bill Lee and lawmakers allocated the historic funding package in April 2022 for infrastructure developments and major improvements that also include outdoor lighting, HVAC system upgrades, and interior décor.  

President Glover thanked Gov. Lee and lawmakers and applauded State Rep. Harold Love, Jr. for his work to ensure TSU gets funds that had been withheld for decades. Love, who is also a TSU alumnus, believes the enhancements will play a greater role in attracting world-class students and faculty. 

“This is a start of a multi-year project to make sure we invest in facilities at Tennessee State University. If we are providing a high-quality education, we must provide the facilities that are state of the art,” says Rep. Love. “These upgrades and improvements will help to sure that all of our students are equipped with all they need to be able to be great scholars and our faculty to be able to be great instructors.” 

Rep. Love was joined by fellow Davidson County lawmaker Sen. Heidi Campbell and State Architect Ann McGauran.    

SGA Vice President Aliyah Holmes shares her excitement about buildings slated for improvements during the project unveiling on Jan. 16, 2022. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU officials say the goal of the campus improvements is to eliminate life-safety issues, address deferred maintenance, and invest in academic buildings. 

“TSU is working to extend the life expectancy of our facilities to better accommodate our students and to enhance their college experience while here,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff. 

The historic funding is the result of a joint legislative committee’s research in 2021. It was revealed in April 2021 that TSU could be due $544 million, dating back to the 1950s, because of years of unpaid land-grant matches by the state. President Glover and Rep. Love, Jr., who served as chairman of the committee, commented then that the outcome was critical to the livelihood of TSU.  

Glover told the crowd during her final remarks at the unveiling that she appreciated the hard work from both sides of the political aisle to reach an agreement instead of being embroiled in a lengthy court battle like in Mississippi and Maryland with their HBCUs. 

Shaun Wimberly, who serves as the student trustee for the university, summed it up best when he proclaimed he’s already thinking about his future that will include TSU. 

“I’m excited for TSU’s future and what this funding and these upgrades will do for my school. I will be a proud legacy as my children will come here to get a quality education.”   

TSU SGA Pres. and VP attend White House roundtable on impact of Dobbs ruling by SCOTUS   

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Student Government Association President Kenneth Rolle, II and Vice President Aliyah Holmes attended a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights and how the Dobbs decision could impact college students across the country. Vice President Kamala Harris extended the invitation to Rolle and Holmes, as well as to other student leaders to hear their thoughts first-hand regarding the issue.    

TSU Student Government Association President Kenneth Rolle, II and Vice President Aliyah Holmes said experiencing a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights at the White House was a monumental moment and looks forward to spreading awareness on campus. (Photo submitted)

Rolle said the opportunity was monumental for the university’s student body and brought forth additional information on how overturning Roe vs. Wade impacts students and young adults.  

“It was a great day in D.C,” Rolle said. “This is a great opportunity for Tennessee State University to showcase the student leadership that we produce here, but on a national stage. They (White House officials) want to hear the student’s perspective, and how we feel about the issue of women’s reproductive rights.”  

Rolle said the roundtable discussion with Vice President Harris provided students with information on how to advocate for change and properly educate the campus on this issue. The Orlando, Florida native said he looks forward to becoming more knowledgeable on how the Supreme Court’s ruling affect women’s rights following the visit. “I foresee us doing a push to raise awareness.”

SGA leaders take a selfie in front of portraits of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during their visit at the White House.

Prior to their arrival, Holmes said her focus was spreading awareness on campus when she returned from Washington D.C. “HBCU students even being invited to the White House to participate in this discussion makes us feel like our voices do matter,” Holmes said. “It was a great experience. Being able to come back to our institution to share the knowledge that we gained is a great opportunity. Inviting TSU student leaders will have a huge, lasting impact on our institution and our student body.”

In August, TSU President Glenda Glover visited the White House, at the request of VP Harris, for a similar roundtable discussion and to obtain pertinent information that could aid TSU students in making well-informed decisions regarding their healthcare needs.

TSU Back in Stride for 2022 Homecoming Celebration

By Kelli Sharpe

Nashville, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – There’s no homecoming like a TSU homecoming as the University gears up for this year’s celebration. The 2022 theme is “Back in Stride Again,” as TSU prepares to welcome thousands of alumni back to the 500-arce campus. Homecoming is October 2-8 and kicked off the week-long celebration with the annual Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion on Sunday.    

The celebration will be highlighted with a scholarship gala, the legendary TSU parade, and of course the homecoming football game between the Tigers and Bethune-Cookman University out of Florida.   

From the legendary Homecoming Parade to the Annual Scholarship Gala, students, staff and faculty look forward to getting Back in Stride Again for the 2022 homecoming celebration.

“TSU homecoming is always a special and exciting time of year for the University as we welcome alumni and friends to our campus,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.   

“This marks the second year we’ve held in-person activities to highlight student achievement and showcase our accomplishments as an institution. It is also a time to celebrate alumni and supporters who have left an indelible mark on TSU.”  

This year’s honorees are: Grand Marshals Entrepreneur, Ms. Andrella Kenner, Global Warming Ambassador and Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley. Honorees are Communications and Public Relations Executive, Dr. Harold Jackson and Former TSU first lady, Mrs. Edwina Hefner.

Grant Winrow

In addition to the big game against Bethune-Cookman at Nissan Stadium on Oct. 8 and the parade that morning, another major highlight of TSU’s homecoming is the Annual Scholarship Gala, TSU’s signature fundraising event. It will take place on Oct. 7 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville.    

TSU Homecoming Chairman Grant Winrow added that this year promises to be even more exciting, but safety will remain a priority even as the pandemic has tapered off.   

“Homecoming week officially begun with an array of events, to kick off the annual celebration,” said Winrow.   

“Last year certainly lived up to the hype and was indeed a homecoming for the record books. So, get ready and come prepared this year, as we are “Back in Stride Again,” picking up where we left off. The health and safety of everyone is our number one priority. We will adhere to all safety protocols that are still in place and ask that you practice social distancing throughout the weekend. Although wearing a mask is no longer mandatory, it is encouraged when inside among large groups.”    

Kenneth Rolle II., said TSU students are looking forward to getting Back in Stride for homecoming this week.

Student Government Association President Kenneth Rolle II., said for students, TSU’s homecoming can be summed up in two words, ‘get geeked.’

“That is all that needs to be said. TSU alumni and friends from near and far will know it’s homecoming week by those two simple words.”   

Other homecoming activities this year include the Ralph Boston and Dr. Catana Starks golf tournament in the morning on Oct. 6; followed by the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute White Coat Ceremony that afternoon at 2 p.m. and the homecoming concert featuring upcoming rappers Glorilla, Nardo Wick, Est Gee, Babyface Ray and the Ying Yang Twins later that day; the Breakfast of Champions, the homecoming pep rally, the Charles Campbell Fish Fry, and the National Pan-Hellenic Step Show all on Oct. 7; and the legendary Homecoming Parade on Oct. 8. The parade will be from 14th and Jefferson Street to 33rd and John Merritt Boulevard.   

For more information about TSU’s 2022 Homecoming, visit www.tnstate.edu/alumni/homecoming/index.aspx .

Shaun Wimberly selected new student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees

NASHVILLLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Shaun Wimberly, Jr., has been appointed the new student trustee on the Tennessee State University Board of Trustees. Wimberly’s appointment was announced during the Board’s June meeting. He was selected by President Glenda Glover to serve a one-year term, as a non-voting member of the Board.

Shaun Wimberly, Jr.

“Congratulations Shaun on your appointment to the TSU Board of Trustees,” President Glover said. “The student trustee plays a critical role at this university. As a student here over the years, you have demonstrated outstanding leadership quality. I have no doubt that your contribution to the Board will make a positive difference for your fellow students.”

Dr. Deborah Cole, chair of the Board, welcomed the new student Trustee. “We are pleased to welcome you Mr. Wimberly to the Tennessee State University Board of Trustees,” she said. “The Board looks forward to your service and working with you on the board and on board committee matters.” 

President Glenda Glover and Shaun Wimberly, Jr., participate in a program featuring FedEx-HBCU Ambassadors outside the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan. (Submitted photo)

“I am excited for my new appointment to the Board of Trustees for the academic school year,” said Wimberly. “I am delighted to be working alongside such a distinguished team and I believe that there are great things to come. I look forward to learning and working diligently throughout my tenure, to serve my university and the student body well.” 

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Wimberly is a junior agribusiness major with a 3.7 grade point average. He is a Brand Ambassador of the Men’s Initiative. He has won many honors and awards, including the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists Award of Excellence. As a member of the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador program, Wimberly joined President Glover and FedEx executives on Feb. 1 to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. 

Kenneth Rolle, II, president of the Student Government Association, described Wimberly as the “epitome of a student leader.” 

Shaun Wimberly interacts with students at Dawhenya Methodist Basic, a middle school in Maase, Ghana, during a recent cultural and educational exchange program. (Submitted photo)

“His drive and ambition have spoken well for him since his freshman year. I have watched him grow on campus and I am excited to watch him serve as the first male student trustee,” said Rolle. “He and I will work closely together as we continue to advocate and improve the experience for students here at Tennessee State University. I look forward to seeing him at work.” Wimberly was selected from among three candidates submitted to President Glover by the SGA. 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, noted that Wimberly has been a model student on our campus and has exhibited high leadership qualities.

“He comes with a great amount of experience,” said Stevenson. “Seeing his commitment to student engagement and to making sure that student concerns are heard at the level of the trustees is important. He is a good fit.” 

Wimberly succeeds Tiara Thomas on the Board of Trustees. A top political science major, Thomas served two one-year terms on the board.  She graduated last May and is pursuing her master’s degree at TSU. 

For more information on the Tennessee State University Board of Trustees, visit  https://www.tnstate.edu/board/ 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
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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.

TSU spotlighted on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner successful six-day space mission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Items representing Tennessee State University’s legacy of excellence were part of the cargo onboard a Boeing spacecraft that recently returned to earth after a successful six-day mission to the International Space Station.  

President Glenda Glover

TSU was one of 14 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) asked to send flags, small pennants and other items representing their institutions, to be flown onboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The unmanned spacecraft for Orbit Flight Test-2 or OFT-2, launched May 19. It returned to earth May 25, making a safe landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. The successful mission capped a major milestone for the aerospace giant, having failed in its previous attempt about a year earlier. 

“Tennessee State University is proud to be among the 14 historically black colleges and universities that Boeing recognized on the space flight of its CST-100 Starliner with flags, pennants, and other items,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “We are proud of our partnership with Boeing, which has led to internships and other opportunities that have propelled many of our students to successful careers. This recognition shows Boeing’s commitment to equity and inclusion, and highlights, once again, the importance of HBCUs.”  

TSU and Boeing have a longstanding relationship that has included grants and funding for various research, training and engineering projects, as well as providing employment and internship opportunities for TSU students. 

Ed Gerding, Boeing’s vice president and chief engineer and a long supporter of TSU, said the OFT-2 mission had very special meaning to him because pennants representing TSU were among those on board as the space craft journeyed to the International Space Station and safely landed back on Earth. 

TSU flag, jersey, backpack and other small pennants were among items flown to space onboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. (TSU Media Relations)

“When I receive the pennants back, I plan to visit TSU with these as a recognition of the strong partnership we’ve built between the university and the Boeing Company,” said Gerding, who is responsible for training, digital and international engineering and global services at Boeing.  

Kenneth Rolle II, president of the Student Government Association, said he’s thankful for the partnership between TSU and Boeing and for the spotlight on HBCUs. 

“As far as the mission to space and having those paraphernalia from HBCUs and Tennessee State University that’s major, because HBCUs are rarely heard of in conversation about going to space,” Role said. “So, this just shows how global HBCUs really are.”  

The higher education mementos from the 14 institutions were part of the approximately 760 pounds of cargo that flew inside the Starliner’s crew module when it launched to the International Space Station for OFT-2. The end-to-end test was a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA. 

Dr. Lin Li, interim dean of the College of Engineering, said TSU is fortunate to have Boeing’s continued investment. 

“Congratulation for the successful launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station,” Lin said. “Boeing continues to invest in the students and academic programs in the College of Engineering. The company’s Recruitment and Retention Initiative for Students in Engineering (RISE) program at TSU identifies high achieving students to receive scholarships as recognized Boeing Scholars.  In addition, Boeing’s funding helps support students’ professional development in preparing for the workforce.” 

Besides TSU, the represented universities with which Boeing also has a recruiting relationship are Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T; Prairie View A&M University, Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana; South Carolina State University, and Tuskegee University. 

For more information on the College of Engineering, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/engineering/moreaboutus.aspx

Featured Photo by TSU Media Relations
TSU flag, jersey, backpack and other small pennants were among items flown to space onboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. (TSU Media Relations)