Tag Archives: memorial service

TSU President Emeritus Dr. Frederick S. Humphries remembered as a man who inspired others to be ‘extraordinary’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Many turned out for a memorial service in honor of Dr. Frederick Stephen Humphries, a stalwart of higher education and President Emeritus of Tennessee State University and Florida A&M University, who inspired the “ordinary to become extraordinary.”

Dr. Frederick S. Humphries

Dr. Humphries, who was TSU’s fourth president, passed away on June 24 at the age of 85. The memorial service on July 18 was held at TSU’s Avon Williams Campus near downtown.

A number of those who attended recalled his leadership and staunch support of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). But they also talked about his role in helping to win the landmark court case that merged Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Nashville, with TSU becoming the surviving institution. The campus where the memorial was held was once a part of UTN.

Historians have said the posture and eloquence of Humphries in court is largely held as being responsible for the court decision, along with the presentation of attorney Avon Williams, and the efforts of Tennesseans for Justice in Higher Education. Between 1980 and 1985, Humphries and his staff gave leadership to the merged TSU, and began serving an increasingly larger portion of the Nashville community.

TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover and FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson (Photo by Andre Bean)

Georgette Dixon attended Sunday’s memorial. Dixon, who became TSU’s first female student government association president (’82-’83) during Humphries’ 11 years (1974-1975) at TSU, was among the grand marshals when Humphries received a Special Presidential Award at TSU’s 2017 Homecoming.

“Dr. Humphries reached the goal of preserving the legacy of Tennessee state university and other HBCUs across the nation that have faced similar challenges of potential merger and hostile takeover when he led the fight and won the landmark court decision resulting in the merger of the University of Tennessee Nashville with Tennessee State University, and we maintained our TSU legacy,” said Dixon, who is currently an executive vice president and head of external engagement for diverse segments representation and inclusion at Wells Fargo.

Dr. Frederick Humphries and TSU alum Georgette Dixon at the 2017 Homecoming celebration at TSU. (TSU Media Relations)

While at TSU, Humphries’ excellent administration skills resulted in recruitment of top faculty, better academic programs, increased enrollment and quality of students, and expanded scholarships and support activities.  

In 1985, Humphries became president of Florida A&M University, where he excelled for six years, gaining increased recognition on the state, national, and international levels. Florida A&M later conferred upon him the President Emeritus title.  

Regardless of where he was, Dixon said Humphries made a difference.

“Every living soul that Dr. Humphries has touched over his lifetime is better today for having been in his midst and benefitted from his legacy,” she said. “Dr. Humphries paved the way for all of us, his family, his friends, and all whom he influenced and inspired, to rise above the ordinary, to become extraordinary, in life and in the pursuit of excellence.”

Bryan Williams, who was also an SGA president (’77-’78) during Humphries’ tenure, agreed. The New York attorney could not attend the memorial service, but he sent a letter to be read, as did others.

“He was absolutely inspirational,” said Williams. “I think he inspired a lot of folks to know just how much they could stand up, and be aggressive, in a way that got things done. I know he inspired me, as a young man looking to the kinds of people that you can be later on in life. He was one of my heroes.”

Humphries was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the American Association of Higher Education, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association of Minority Research Universities, just to name a few.  

His honors and awards include the Drum Major for Justice Award in Education by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; President’s Award for Excellence in Higher Education by 100 Black Men of America, Inc.; Leadership Grant by the Prudential Life Insurance Company of America Foundation; and many others. Among Humphries’ most memorable awards are the Distinguished Alumnus Award presented by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh; the United Bicentennial Medal of Distinction by the University of Pittsburgh on its 200th anniversary; the Thurgood Marshall Educational Achievement Award by Johnson Publishing Company for the most outstanding contributions to education; and “Floridian of the Year” by the Orlando Sentinel, the first African American to be honored with the award. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

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.

Late TSU President Celebrated for Brilliance, Love of Students and Commitment to Black Higher Education; Laid to Rest After Nashville Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – In a packed memorial service in Poag Auditorium Sept. 2, speakers remembered former Tennessee State University President James A. Hefner for his brilliance, love of students and his “undying” commitment for quality black higher education.

“He won the respect of his colleagues and peers because he was smart and fearless as an educator, who wanted the best for his students,” said TSU President Glenda Glover, who referred to the late former president as a friend and mentor.

Dr. Fred Humphries, former president of TSU and President Emeritus of Florida A&M University, was a longtime friend of Dr. Hefner. Humphries described his friend as “a very serious person.” (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Glover was one of more than seven current and former university presidents who attended the service to pay tribute to their fallen colleague. They joined family members, friends and other dignitaries, including U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper in a standing-room only ceremony featuring traditional African drumbeats, songs and video presentations of Hefner’s views on HBCUs, black economic empowerment and family.

Tributes from across the nation from friends, schoolmates, former colleagues and acquaintances referred to Hefner as a skilled educator who was “serious and all about business.”

“He had a good mind and he cultivated it so others could benefit,” said former classmate and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who attended college with Hefner at North Carolina A&T University. Jackson’s tribute was read at the ceremony.

Dr. Ivan Davis, director of Student Health Services, left; Dr. Nebraska Mays, former distinguished professor of Education, and vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents: and Dr. Thomas Martin, former vice president of Student Affairs, served at TSU during Dr. Hefner’s tenure. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Hefner, the sixth president of TSU, who led the institution 14 years from 1991-2005, died from cancer Aug. 27 at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee. He was buried in Nashville Sept. 3 after funeral services at Christ Church Cathedral. Hefner was 76.

When asked recently how he would like to be remembered, Hefner said, “As an educator who cared about black higher education and the welfare of students.”

Former colleagues saw him as one who would do whatever it took to make sure students mattered the most.

“He was a very serious person,” said former TSU President and President Emeritus of Florida A&M University, Dr. Fred Humphries. “He was about making his life mean something, and about keeping alive the good works of HBCUs.”

Dr. Everett Freeman, former president of Albany State University and president of Community College of Denver, worked with Hefner at TSU and at Jackson State University, where the late leader served as president before coming to TSU.

He named football, the school band, education and family as Hefner’s biggest passions.

“But his ultimate concern was to make sure students mattered most,” said Freeman, who served as Hefner’s executive assistant at TSU.

Other current and former presidents who paid tribute to Hefner were: Dr. John Wilson, Morehouse College; and Dr. Robert Johnson, Clark Atlanta University. Also sharing tributes was former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, as well as well as former students David Winslow, Tennessee State; Thomas Scott, Morehouse; and Robert Scott, Jackson State.

Under Dr. Hefner’s leadership, TSU saw some of its most significant growth. He managed the end of the Geier desegregation case, in which TSU received an Endowment for Educational Excellence to support scholarship opportunities for exceptional students. He kicked off the university’s first capital fundraising campaign to increase TSU’s endowment, and saw the completion of the new Performing Arts Building, the final building in the $112 million capital improvements project which funded the construction of eight new facilities and renovations of existing structures on campus. See Brief Snapshot of Accomplishments.

Dr. Hefner’s long-standing career as an academician and executive administrator also included teaching and serving as research associate at Harvard University, Princeton University, Clark College, Florida A&M University, Benedict College and Prairie View A&M University. After retiring from TSU in 2005, he accepted a non-resident fellowship at Harvard University in the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research and served as Visiting Distinguished Professor of Economics and Presidential Leadership at Texas Southern University.

Dr. Hefner earned degrees at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he obtained his bachelor’s in business administration. At Atlanta University, he received a Master of Economics, and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He is survived by his wife, Edwina Hefner; three sons: Christopher Hefner of St. Petersburg, Florida, Jonathan Hefner, M.D. and his wife Katrina of Atlanta, David Hefner, Ed.D. and his wife Tasha of Marietta, Georgia; 11 grandchildren; two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law; and a host of other family and friends.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
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, 22 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.