By Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Vice President Kamala Harris wasn’t the only thing that made students and family cheer and applaud on Saturday, May 7 during the Tennessee State University Spring Undergraduate Commencement. Without a doubt, Vice President Harris was the main attraction as the crowd roared with excitement as she arrived at Hale stadium. The audience hung on every word of her dynamic and historic commencement address. However, the second loudest cheers were for the TSU Vintagers as University President Glenda Glover announced their $300,000 donation for student scholarships. With the gift, the group’s contribution to the institution has totaled more than $2.8 million since July 2019.
“We thank you for your generosity and commitment to continue to think of TSU often, to work for TSU’s continued growth and development, and to serve TSU for many more years to come,” said TSU President Glover.
On commencement eve, TSU Vintagers – a group of individuals who graduated from the institution 40 years or more ago – presented President Glover with the $300,000 check for scholarships and other University needs.
Barbara Murrell, of the class of 1960, was among those who presented the check to President Glover. She said Vintagers are glad to return to the “Land of Golden Sunshine” each year to demonstrate their support of the institution and students through scholarships. She hailed President Glover for the choice of Vice President Kamala Harris as the commencement speaker.
“It was a glorious and historic day at TSU as Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America, congratulated and empowered graduates with a message of reality, high expectations, possibilities and hope,” said Murrell, who was a senior administrator at the university for many years.
Following the vice president’s address, the Golden Vintagers, highlighting 50 years of service to TSU since graduating, were next on the program to cross the stage. Each received a certificate of appreciation.
Newly inducted Vintager Ronald Ashley, class agent for the class of 1980, said planned activities for the past years were put off because of the pandemic, but considering the well-planned events culminating with the appearance of the Vice President, “it was well worth the wait.”
“To come back to TSU face-to-face with the members of all the other classes, the energy that we all felt and the love for the school and being able to see and hear what other alums have done within their class as far as their financial donation, was just overwhelming,” Ashley said. “I was just filled with emotion and joy yesterday as we sat in Hale Stadium and witnessed the vice president of the United States of America come to our campus, our stage to address the graduates as well as the Tennessee State family. That was truly special.”
The Vintagers’ donations and other charitable gifts to the university are managed by the TSU Foundation to support literary, scientific, educational, scholarship, charitable and development purposes and goals at the university.
Dr. Grandville Sawyer, an alumnus and coordinator of alumni affairs, came up with the name Vintagers in 1962, on the 50th anniversary of the university. The program is now in its 70th year. Each spring commencement, members return and hold different functions. On graduation day, they dress in caps and gowns and join the ceremony to relive their graduation day. They also induct new members, as well as celebrate those entering their “golden” years (70, 71, 72) of graduation. This year’s newly inducted members are from the classes of ’80, ’81, and ’82.
This year, a key highlight of the Vintagers’ events was the celebration of the oldest living member, Dr. Katie Kinnard White, member of the class of 1952, who is 90 years old.
Debbi Howard, director of Alumni Relations, said Vintagers reunions offer a rich tradition of reconnecting classmates with their alma mater, as well as reflecting on the tremendous impact TSU has made on their life.
“We are glad that this reunion, like all of those in the past, gave you the opportunity to rekindle many lifelong friendships, as well as reminisce on the people, places and events that made your experience at TSU so memorable,” Howard said. She thanked her staff, alumni and volunteers who helped to make the Vintagers’ week successful.
You can view the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement, including the Golden Vintagers ceremony on the TSU YouTube channel by visiting tnstate.edu.