Tag Archives: Women’s History Month

Tennessee State University celebrates Women’s History Month with gratitude

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –Women’s History Month is celebrated in March every year to recognize and honor the contributions that women have made in society throughout history. Tennessee State University honors its women with gratitude for their historic impact and achievements accomplished dating back to 1912.

TSU’s Women’s Center’s mission is to provide vital services that address needs by hosting programs and workshops that speak to the well-being of the TSU woman.

This month represents acknowledgement of previous and current contributions of women working towards a more equitable society.

From multi-media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who is one of the richest self-made women in America, to the University’s first-ever sitting female president Dr. Glenda Glover, who is one of two African American women to hold the Ph.D-CPA-JD combination in the nation, to Wilma Rudolph who became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.

As an official member of the TSU Alumni Family, Vice President Kamala Harris joins President Glenda Glover, and University officials for the University Alma Mater song to end a historic commencement in May 2022. (Photo submitted)

TSU has a variety of distinguished women with many accolades.    

“There are so many amazing women at Tennessee State University,” said Seanne Wilson, who has served as the director of the University’s Women’s Center since 2015. Wilson said many of TSU’s alumna paved the way for Black women in Nashville and beyond. “Often times we are overlooked,” Wilson said. “We’ve never had the shine we deserve. Now women are starting to be seen and we are operating in power.”

Wilson knew she wanted to be a part of the efforts to create a tranquil environment for female students on campus when she became the director.

TSU students during the 2022 annual Women of Legend and Merit Awards, which recognizes the achievements of women.

TSU’s Women’s Center’s mission is to provide vital and comprehensive services that address needs by hosting programs and workshops that speak to the emotional, intellectual, physical, and financial well-being of the TSU woman.

Something that Tamar Williams, who is a student ambassador for the center, said she appreciates. “It is extremely important for TSU to have a Women’s Center because women should have a safe space to be authentically themselves.” Williams, a sophomore studying mass communications, expressed how important it is to celebrate women not only during the month of March but year-round.

TSU students Carla Pulliam and Tamar Williams during a table top event last semester for the Women’s Center

“Women’s History Month is highlighting all women who have done extraordinary things,” Williams said. “Black women are visionaries that push the envelope every time and I think this month really does showcase that.”

Faith Ware, who is also a student ambassador for the Women’s Center, said she stumbled across the center her freshman year and never looked back. “You guys welcomed me in, and I haven’t left,” Ware smiled as she spoke to Ms. Wilson and other students in the center. “The environment gets better and better every year. It’s a safe space and a lot of help is offered here.”

Faith Ware

Gabrielle Mosby, a sophomore who serves as the center’s Vice President, told the University that this month is an expression of women. “The light is on us to showcase our beauty, talent, and excellence.” Mosby said distinguished women of the University have already set the tone for her after college. Along with Dr. Glover, she noted Dr. Tasha Andrews-Carson as an ‘amazing expression.’ Dr. Andrews-Carson serves as the assistant vice president of First Year Students and was a speaker during last year’s women’s conference, something that Mosby and Williams both said resonated with them.

Gabrielle Mosby

Williams also noted how the student body has campus leaders like Miss TSU who help embrace her authentic self.

Sa’Mariah Harding, a senior from Indiana currently serving as the 93rd Miss TSU, said she is proud to be a woman setting examples while serving the student body and appreciates the support from fellow female Tigers.

“They may have not all known me personally, but the love and togetherness that they had by wrapping their arms around me at a time that I felt like I couldn’t stand on my own, gave me more hope and ammunition that I never knew I could have until they stood beside me, hand and hand,” Harding said. “I love the women on Tennessee State University’s campus, and they are the reason that I continue to fight every day.”

93rd Miss TSU Sa’Mariah Harding

From the annual Women of Legend and Merritt event to the Women’s Center Women’s Conference, the University celebrates its women with several events not only in March, but throughout the entire school year.

Here is a list of 16 notable women in TSU history whose stories highlight their legacy and commitment to excellence.  

Trailblazing alumna who became the first black female elementary school principal in East TN inspires and epitomizes TSU’s legacy of producing top educators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University proudly celebrates Mary Collins, a 1938 graduate of then Tennessee A&I who became the first black female principal of an elementary school in East Tennessee. While her essays and poetry about life on the campus is inspiring to read and immediately transports you to a time when the college had only been in existence for 26 years, it is Collins’ legacy as an educator that has impacted and inspired two generations of educators in her family. 

Mary Collins

“She was a champion for education,” said Jenai Hayes, Collins’ granddaughter and a Tennessee public school teacher. “As a little girl, she would always tell me it’s your fundamental right to learn how to read and to be able to do mathematics. Those two things she said were the principles of being able to survive.”  

Hayes carries that same wisdom and passion for learning into the classroom as a science educator with Metro Nashville Public Schools. She followed in the footsteps of not just her grandmother, but her late mother, Mary Brown, who was also an alumna of Tennessee A&I.   

Hayes said her grandmother, who graduated with a degree in education, also strongly influenced her mother, who spent 24 years as a popular English and French teacher at Tennessee High School in Bristol, Tennessee, before becoming a member of Bristol’s school board.   

Jenai Hayes

While at Tennessee A&I, Mary Collins joined Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. It was there that she also met her future husband, Clyde Collins, Sr. Before graduating, Collins wrote 50 poems and short stories for elementary grades that were part of a graduation project. It wasn’t long after graduating that she began to make an impact as an educator.   

Growing up, Hayes saw her grandmother’s desire to educate others firsthand when she went with her to the Job Corps in Bristol some Saturdays.   

“She spent weekends, even while she was still working, teaching men how to read,” said Hayes, noting that the Job Corps in East Tennessee didn’t include women at the time. “She was so disturbed that so many of them didn’t know how to read.”  

Mary Collins and a young Jenai.

In addition to helping the men, Hayes said her grandmother also championed women becoming part of the Job Corps. Due to a large part of her effort, women were eventually incorporated, and the first female dormitory was named after Mary Collins.   

Michael Carter, a TSU alum, is the residential supervisor at Jacob Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center where Collins volunteered decades ago. Carter was close to Collins’ family growing up, and was also taught by her in the sixth grade when she was principal at Slater School for a couple of years during the integration of schools in East Tennessee.   

Carter said Collins’ contribution to the Job Corps is still talked about today.   

“When they did get the women in the program, she was out here teaching them etiquette and all sorts of things,” said Carter. “She would also bring things out here for them. She was just a giving person.”   

Mary Collins (right) and daughter Mary Brown.

At Lincoln Elementary School in Bristol, where Collins was a teacher and principal for a number of years before integration, she was just as passionate about helping students, not just learn, but get necessities, like food and clothing.  

Mary Brown, who died in 2016, talked about her mother’s benevolence and her legacy in a newspaper interview.   

“A lot of times, she would watch the kids as they ate lunch and looked for the ones who didn’t have much – if anything at all,” said Brown of her mother, who sometimes took out loans to feed students, put shoes on their feet, and buy up-to-date books. “Then, my mother would go up the street to the corner store and buy luncheon meat for those kids, so they could have lunch, too. I looked at my mother’s passion and the love she put into teaching and helping children. And I said, ‘I want to do that, too. I want to … make that kind of difference.’”  

Frances Worthington was one of many students at Lincoln Elementary whose life was impacted by Collins. Now 82, the Bristol resident recalled how Collins made it possible for her to attend school and get an education.   

Mary Collins assisting gentleman with reading at Job Corps.

“I lost a lot of time in school because my mother had to go to work and I had to stay home and babysit my baby sister,” said Worthington. “Ms. Collins told my mother that I could bring my sister Margaret with me to school, and that she would not be any trouble. She was a loving person.”  

Mary Collins passed away during Hayes’ first year in college. But before she died, Hayes said they talked about her becoming a teacher.   

“She influenced me to the point I went to the Governor’s School for Teachers in 1993,” Hayes said of Collins, who was chosen to participate in a prestigious National Science Foundation program in 1961. “One of my proudest moments is her going with me and sitting at the table when we were graduating from governor’s school.”  

Hayes said she hopes to enroll at Tennessee State University in the fall to pursue a doctorate and continue to be a “champion for education” like her grandmother, and mother.   

Mary Collins’ book of poetry and short stories.

“I want to be a part of their TSU legacy,” said Hayes.   

Dr. Jerri Haynes, dean of the College of Education at Tennessee State University, said the College is “guided by the pioneering work of educational luminaries like Ms. Mary Collins.”  

“Ms. Collins’ example of selflessness and dedication continues to impact the program’s emphasis on identifying and addressing the needs of all students, and tirelessly working to ensure that no child is left behind,” said Haynes.   

Reflective of Ms. Collins’ life work, Haynes said the TSU Educator Preparation Program stresses competence and caring with the goal of producing graduates who are highly qualified and passionate about student achievement. She said the accolades bestowed upon TSU’s education programs and the success of the graduates are testimony to Ms. Collins’ enduring legacy of excellence.   

TSU College of Education Dean, Dr. Jerri Haynes.

For instance, said Haynes, all programs in TSU’s EPP have been unconditionally approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and by the State of Tennessee.  Recently, the Elementary Education program was recognized by the National Council on Teacher Quality for its diversity of teacher candidates, placing the program’s diversity in the top 21 percent of all nationally reviewed institutions. The Educational Leadership program has also had success. TSU has supplied more principals and assistant principals to Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) than any other institution. 

“Indeed, graduates of TSU’s EPP are sought after by school districts inside and outside the state,” said Haynes. “This demand only further confirms the competence and caring TSU graduates offer, characteristics reminiscent of a pioneering TSU alumna, Mary Collins.”  

To learn more about TSU’s College of Education, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/coe/

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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.