By Alexis Clark, Kelli Sharpe
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Days before the nation celebrated the MLK Day of Service, Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover shared her own mountain top experience at the annual presidential prayer service held January 10. Stating that TSU will get to the “promised land” of equal funding, President Glover delivered a powerful, spirit-filled keynote address to mark her final presidential prayer service. The near capacity crowd filled the sanctuary, at the historic Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, to hear from TSU’s first female president and alumna to lead the institution.
Many stood to their feet as President Glover declared how thankful she is to have been chosen to lead her alma mater and that her calling is to bring HBCUs and TSU to their rightful place of equal funding, rights, and fairness. In a ‘preacher-like’ tone reminiscent of the clergy members joining her in pulpit, the crowd hung on her every word and one point encouraged her to stay on as president.
“I’m thankful that God entrusted me with the leadership of such a significant university,” Glover said as the crowd erupted with applause.
“We will get to our ‘promise land’ for TSU. I may have finished my course, but I have not finished my calling. A course ends, but a calling lasts forever. My calling is to change the lives of students.”
With the crowd on their feet, Dr. Glover told them she was speaking from the scripture that applies to her assignment at TSU.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” She asked the crowd to please receive her retirement as she nears the end of her TSU journey.
President Glover expressed pride in the university’s increased national platform, as she reflected on her journey from a girl in poverty stricken South Memphis to leading TSU for 11 years. She spoke of her challenges and successes.
An impressive list of accomplishments was shared in the event’s program book. This included record enrollment, successfully navigating the institution through the pandemic, record $100 million plus in research awards and another $100 million in the TSU endowment, several new buildings, including two new residence halls, and securing $250 million from the State of Tennessee, the largest one-time appropriation from a state to a historically black college or university (HBCU).
She also spoke passionately about the ongoing “good fight” for TSU and for HBCUs nationwide, advocating for equal opportunities for students with equitable funding.
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education announced that 16 of the nation’s governors collectively owed their respective land-grant HBCUs $13 billion. Tennessee State University was identified as the HBCU with the largest underfunding owed amount by a state, totaling $2.1 billion.
“My legacy is that I fought for TSU. It is a fight worth fighting,” Glover said.
Prominent clergy members, community leaders, and individuals from all denominations gathered at the annual event, representing the diversity of the Nashville community. Alongside members of the clergy and supporters from nearby HBCUs, elected officials also attended in support of TSU and Glover. Mayor Freddie O’Connell, State Reps. Dr. Harold Love Jr., and Sam McKenzie, former Metro Council member Sharon Hurt, and former senator Brenda Gilmore, were among the crowd.
The newly elected mayor took the podium and spoke about his favorite prayers, gratitude, and Glover’s longevity as a pillar in the community.
“Her tenure as TSU’s leader does begin right here with themes of unity and inclusion,” O’Connell said.
“She knew how important it was for TSU to connect with the community and vice versa. It was Dr. Glover’s ideal way of connecting TSU with the churches and neighborhoods faith-based institutions.”
This years’ service included newcomers on the front pew, like TSU student leaders SGA President Derrell Taylor, Vice President Chrishonda O’Quinn, Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, along with TSU Board of Trustee student representative Shaun Wimberly, Jr. O’Quinn, a Chicago native, described the setting and President Glover’s message as a powerful experience.
“Knowing that she led with her faith being first really made me feel empowered,” O’Quinn said.
“It made me want to apply it to my personal journey. It really shows that TSU has strong ties within the community. It’s not just within TSU alumni, but the community in Nashville and beyond.”
Rev. Aaron X. Marble, pastor of Jefferson Street, presided over the program as his church has hosted the event since its conception in 2013. Pastor Marble asked everyone to stand on their feet to thank the president for her tenure and commitment to TSU. She received a rousing applause and standing ovation.
“God has used her to navigate and steer our beloved institution to tremendous heights in incredible ways,” Marble said.
“We take the time to say thank you for your leadership, thank you for your service, and thank you for your commitment to prayer.”
President Glover shared that she is committed to supporting her successor, and will forever ‘bleed blue’ for TSU. The crowd stood and cheered during her closing remarks as she talked about her efforts and what she hoped her legacy will reveal about presidency.
“I tried to help students, keep students in school, and raise money to get them off the purge list.
I tried to meet with parents, work in the community, and I tried to love when it was difficult.
I tried to serve God with all I had. Every time I did a speech, in every delivery, every seminar, and in every testimony, I tried to lift up the name of Jesus.”
President Glover will have served for 11 and a half years when she retires at the end of the semester. A Salute to Excellence Gala is planned for April 13, 2024, in her honor.