Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Why The Big Blue Issue
This space has always been used to address mayhem and madness while being uplifting to the readers of my blog. Writing negativity week-after-week is not my cup of tea, nor do I want to hear about others' negativity. For 18 months or more, my eyes and ears have seen and heard things that left me perplexed about my sons' beloved Big Blue. My efforts, in trying to sort fact from fiction, were for their benefit. The outcome of that sorting was shared with you in newspapers and blogs that carry my column, Genmaspeaks. Now, after almost two years of seeing and hearing, here is what I know to be true: the TSU community must be reminded of why our blood bleeds blue!
My oldest son tells me often, “Mom, TSU is a really good school. It has some of the best programs in the country, but we have to do a better job of telling our story.” (I have told you before my child’s a genius.) And, he is right. The TSU community has to do a better job of telling about its storied past that is rich in cultural heritage, and continue to celebrate the diversity of thinkers, teachers and students who are part of the university today. One will find programs only unique to TSU. Many TSU alumni are the first in their fields representing diverse professions such as medicine, engineering, business, politics and the arts community, to name a few. TSU also has professors and researchers who are nationally recognized. Even the students are making positive news nationally before they graduate from the university. We must celebrate those gifts.
I could have written an entire series on TSU football standouts; and not just the ones who went to the NFL. Richard Dent has given us much to shout about by becoming the first TSU football talent to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2011). Further, I wanted to do an entire section on the famed Tigerbelles, then and now. I could have filled pages about the accomplishments of Coach Chandra Cheeseborough, who I interviewed two years ago, Edith McGuire-Duvall, Martha Hudson, Isabelle Daniels, Barbara Jones Slater, Wyomia Tyus, Lucinda Williams, Willye B. White, Wilma Rudolph and, of course, legendary Coach Ed Temple. They were not overlooked by any means. At TSU, we love our sports, but we also know TSU is not only a sports school.
TSU now receives a matching land grant for agricultural research, forestry research and cooperative extension funding in excess of $9 million per year. As of this fiscal year, this will generate nearly $39 million in state and federal matching funds for land grant activities. TSU’s College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences dean, Dr. Chandra Ready, advises President Obama. That is an honor. And speaking of honors, in spite of being beaten black and blue in the local mainstream media, TSU achieved high honors by receiving the Carnegie-Engaged University Classification status, winning an award for community engagement and landing on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Yes, TSU has made an intentional effort to teach young people the value of being part of the solution; not the problem. With these awards for service to the community, it is no surprise that the school is part of Tennessee Campus Compact. The Tennessee Campus Compact provides leadership, resources and advocacy to enhance student learning by increasing the capability of Tennessee institutions of higher education to embed civic engagement. The more we shape our future leaders about the role they play in giving back to the community, the better alumni they will make when it's time to give back to the university.
TSU also fought and won honorary degrees for 14 Freedom Riders expelled 50 years ago. The fight to recognize their efforts in helping to desegregate the South was a reminder that racial issues are systemic and it is important for us to continue to have dialogue and conversations that keep us moving forward and not backwards. TSU's Freedom Riders revealed and changed the hearts of men and women then and now.
The arts have always been respected by the TSU community as well. Two alumnus', Jeff Carr and Barry Scott, have poured their passion into the community by opening theater companies that attract diverse audiences from around the country. Carr has expanded his platform to engage young people internationally with trips to Africa and Haiti. Additionally, TSU’s choir was in the spotlight when they participated in a stirring tribute to one of TSU’s most famous alumni, Oprah Winfrey, during the 33rd Kennedy Center Honors, which was nationally televised. TSU also has a vibrant campus newspaper, radio station and television studio - all strong media programs designed to train the Oprah of tomorrow.
Not to be left out, TSU’s scientists and engineers have global impact. Dr. Levi Watkins, a cardiac surgeon, is known for the creation and implantation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator (AID). The AID detects irregular heart rhythm and shocks the heart back to life. Engineer Jesse Russell played a major role in shaping the wireless communications industry through his visionary leadership and innovative perspectives for standards, technologies and innovative new wireless service concepts. TSU's College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science alumni continue to aggressively support the college raising more than $2.250 million for their endowment.
TSU has much to celebrate as it continues to address deficiencies that need to be corrected. Campus customer service issues are being made top priority and the students are being reminded often that they are the purpose of the university.
As I close, let me thank several people who were the backbone of the Big Blue Issue. TSU alumna Mrs. Rosetta Miller-Perry, thank you for allowing the Tribune to be the source for the Big Blue Issue. Certainly, black media has a responsibility in not only telling of our greatness and good deeds, but to also call out the bad and the ugly when necessary. Thank you again for the Big Blue Issue.
K. Dawn Rutledge, who was the first person I shared the idea of highlighting TSU's accomplishments in the Tribune. Her only words to me after a lengthy breathless five-minute presentation were, “I love it!” She became the go-to person for stories that fit the theme of the issue. She volunteered her time and was not afraid to give critique and did not hold back praise. There was no way this could have been done without Dawn. No way at all.
David Walker was my ninth-hour angel with blue wings. A TSU graduate, who has a flare for dealing with me when I am at my worst at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, gave his heart and soul to this project. It took a TSU graduate to see the vision of where this could go. His love of Big Blue is evident. I said, “I need your help,” and he never looked back.
Lastly, my children are the source for my passion for life. My sons love their Big Blue. A hard fought for degree should not be devalued by mayhem. I am so proud of them for making decisions to not only better their lives with an education, but to make a difference in the lives of others. They keep me on my toes and keep me tapping at my computer. Although not perfect, I hope all of you enjoyed the first Big Blue Issue. It was birthed out of love for my family and my community. Go Big Blue!
(A big thank you to all the contributors and supporters who also made this happen.)