By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University kicked off this year’s Homecoming with the 32nd annual Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest on Sunday.
The event, which was free and open to the public, was held in the Floyd-Payne Campus Center on the main campus. Cash prizes of $1,200, $800 and $500 were awarded respectively for first, second, and third place winners in freshman and upperclassman divisions.
There were 26 participants this year. The freshman winners were: Akyra O. McDougal, 1st place; Janae Williams, 2nd place; and Ter’niciah L. James, 3rd place. In the upperclassman division, Sarah Sulewski claimed 1st place; Ashanti Holland, 2nd; Trey Gibson, 3rd; and Sydni Daniels received a $200 bookstore gift certificate for 4th place.
Before the contest, TSU President Glenda Glover thanked the students for their participation, and lauded their courage and talent.
“What better way to start Homecoming than to have our magnificent students display their talents,” said Dr. Glover. “I’m proud of each participant for sharing in this event, and for the fortitude and determination to play such a significant role today.”
The contest, established in 1988, is named in honor of the late Robert N. Murrell, a longtime administrator and dean of men at TSU. It encourages students to develop skills in research, writing and oratory.
“I’m most grateful to all of you who played a part in making this happen, and for all of you who are here today,” said Ms. Barbara Murrell, whose late husband the event honors.
In 1993, the TSU Homecoming Committee incorporated the oratorical contest into the official Homecoming schedule of activities, and established the Homecoming theme as the theme for the contest. This year’s theme is: “Unleash the Pride of the Tiger!”
Following the oratorical contest, TSU’s Homecoming events continued with the Gospel Explosion in Kean Hall gymnasium. The concert, which was also free, featured hit artists Kirk Franklin, James Fortune, and Koryn Hawthorn. TSU alum and gospel legend Dr. Bobby Jones received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other Homecoming highlights throughout the week include the Coronation of Mr. and Miss TSU, Oct. 16; Ralph Boston Golf Tournament, Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Symposium, and Homecoming Concert, Oct. 17; and the Greek Step Show and the Charles Campbell Fish Fry, Oct. 18.
On Friday evening, TSU has planned a stellar Scholarship Gala at the Music City Center. This year, the Gala welcomes back comedian Jonathan Slocumb as the master of ceremony. Special entertainment will be provided by Melvin Crispell III, the ninth-season winner of BET’s “Sunday Best.” Proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships are used to provide financial assistance to students.
Homecoming will conclude Oct. 19 with the Homecoming Parade from 14th and Jefferson Street to 33rd and John Merritt Boulevard, and the big football matchup between the Tigers and the Austin Peay Governors at Nissan Stadium.
To see all Homecoming activities, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/alumni/homecoming/documents/HomecomingSchedule.pdf.