University’s Honors Program Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence

Former CNN news anchor and award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien featured speaker March 26 during Honors Program Convocation


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – This academic year the Honors Program at Tennessee State University will celebrate 50 years of positive and life-long learning, scholarly inquiry, and a commitment to service.

Award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien will be the featured speaker March 26 during the Honors program Convocation.
Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien will be the featured speaker March 26 during the Honors program Convocation.

The yearlong celebration will commemorate the program’s journey throughout the years, and will be capped by a visit to campus on March 26 by award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien. The former CNN anchor will be the featured speaker at the Honors Anniversary Luncheon at 11 a.m. that will honor Dr. McDonald Williams, the first Director of the Honors Program. O’Brien will also be the featured keynote speaker during the Honors Day Convocation beginning at 1 p.m.

The Honors Convocation in Kean Hall is free and open to the public. The Honors Anniversary Luncheon is $50 per person and takes place in the Gentry Center.

O’Brien’s appearance is sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs as part of the Distinguished Lecture Speaker series.

At the convocation, notable Honors alumni will address the student body, Honors societies, Honors alumni and community members.

According to Dr. Coreen Jackson, director of the Honors Program, the primary goal of the program is to create and maintain a community of academically bright and talented students who serve as campus leaders and role models.

“The key objective is the academic enrichment of our students and working with them to achieve their goals,” she added. “We have the opportunity to teach students who are excited about learning and have the freedom to explore issues from multiple points of view. The program not only impacts the students but also the entire University.”

Other events planned for the celebration include an Honors Research Symposium to coincide with the University-wide Research Symposium March 31 through April 5. During the fall, the celebration will culminate with a special 50th Anniversary cake-cutting ceremony and an Honors Week observance.

Jackson added that the jubilee celebration kicks off with an “Honors 50 for 50” campaign to raise funds to help the program transition to an Honors College. The new college, she said, will encourage interdisciplinary programs, enhance undergraduate research in all disciplines, advising for prestigious fellowships and scholarships, develop a mentoring program to make our students more competitive, encourage lifelong learning, including a global perspective through study abroad.

“We are attempting to raise $500,000 to offset the cost of transitioning the program to a full-fledge Honors College,” added Jackson. “As a College, we will be able to highlight the importance of offering an enriched honors curriculum and to increase the University’s ability to recruit and retain high-ability students. We have a program that has a national reputation that has exceeded the basic characteristics of honors program and already meets the characteristics of an Honors College, as recommended by the National Collegiate Honors Council, the recognized leader in undergraduate honor education.”

In 1963, Dr. Walter S. Davis, then President of Tennessee State University, appointed a committee that was charged with studying honors programs and determining the feasibility of establishing one at the University. The committee recommended that TSU keep pace with other institutions throughout the country. As a result, an honors program for freshman students started in the fall of 1964. Sophomore through senior level course work was added yearly throughout 1968.

During the years since 1964, the Honors Program has continued to develop and grow, moving from a converted classroom in the Agricultural Building to the present Honors Center, located on the first floor of the Student Success Center. The center includes study areas, a computer room, conference room, classroom, multipurpose /lounge, and offices of director, associate director and the administrative assistant. Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Societies are also housed in the Honors Center.

More important than the physical changes that have taken place, according to Jackson, are the increasingly large number of students entering the program and the achievements they are making.

“They come from many different states and countries and have a variety of majors,” she said. “Consistent with honors objectives, honors students continue to be admitted to prestigious graduate and professional schools.”

For more information on the anniversary activities or Honors Convocation featuring Soledad O’Brien, contact the Honors Program at 615.963.5731.




Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209



About Tennessee State University

With nearly 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