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Laila Ali KOs MTSU with stories of losses, victories in and out of boxing ring

With a flurry of Hollywood-style lighting and audio of Muhammad Ali stating “I AM the greatest,” Laila Ali took the stage Wednesday night, March 22, as MTSU’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote speaker.

Former super-middleweight boxer Laila Ali delivers the dual Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote address at MTSU’s James Union Building March 22. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Former super-middleweight boxer Laila Ali delivers the dual Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote address at MTSU’s James Union Building March 22. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

However, the story she told to an attentive James Union Building audience was not one of glitz and glamour but of hard lessons and harder work.

Ali, the youngest daughter of the late heavyweight boxing champion and humanitarian, spoke of the hardships created by her parents’ divorce when she was 8 years old, a stepfather she described as “mentally abusive” and hanging out with the wrong people.

She credited a three-month stint in a juvenile correctional program after a shoplifting arrest for turning her life around.

“That program really gave me the structure, the nurturing and the support that I needed and helped get me back on track,” said Ali.

Laila Ali competed as a professional boxer from 1999 to 2007, earning the female super-middleweight titles of four governing bodies of boxing and the light-heavyweight crown of the International Women’s Boxing Federation. She retired undefeated with 24 victories.

A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Ali promotes equality for women in professional sports, fitness and wellness. She also is a regular panelist and contributor for “We Need to Talk,” a panel discussion program on the CBS Sports Network.

As a business entrepreneur, Ali recently debuted a signature line of hairstyling tools with Helen of Troy hair care products. Her charitable endeavors include support for Feeding America, Peace 4 Kids and the American Dental Association.

Dawn Stigall, a sophomore fashion merchandising major from Memphis, Tennessee, said she found Ali’s talk “very eye-opening.”

“I didn’t know about her going to jail … just the rough patches she went through to get to where she is today,” said Stigall. “Being a major celebrity’s daughter, I thought that she would be so privileged.”

NWHM 2017 headerAli spoke of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder’s constant presence around her father, but she said he still kept his door open for visits with all kinds of people.

Married to former NFL player Curtis Conway and the mother of two children, Ali said that although she also knows celebrities, her closest girlfriends are her hair-care buddies.

“I don’t ever want to become disconnected like some people do, you know, and just be living in a bubble,” said Ali.

“Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month observance at MTSU. In conjunction with the theme, buttons are being distributed across campus bearing the likeness of Madam C.J. Walker, the hair products magnate who was hailed as the first self-made African-American millionaire in the country in the early 20th century.

You can learn more about 2017 Women’s History Month events at MTSU here.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


Trailblazer Laila Ali to give knockout March 22 keynote at MTSU

Trailblazing athlete and entrepreneur Laila Ali will deliver the dual keynote address for MTSU’s Women’s History Month and Black History Month celebrations.

Laila Ali

Laila Ali

Ali, a former four-time boxing world champion, will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, in the Tennessee Room of MTSU’s James Union Building in the free public event.

A printable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.

Ali, a daughter of the late heavyweight icon and anti-war activist Muhammad Ali, competed from 1999 to 2007, earning the female super-middleweight titles of four governing bodies of boxing and the light-heavyweight crown of the International Women’s Boxing Federation. She retired undefeated with 24 victories.

A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Ali promotes equality for women in professional sports, fitness and wellness. She also is a regular panelist and contributor for “We Need to Talk,” a panel discussion program on the CBS Sports Network.

NWHM 2017 headerAs a business entrepreneur, Ali recently debuted a signature line of hairstyling tools with Helen of Troy hair care products. Her charitable endeavors include support for Feeding America, Peace 4 Kids and the American Dental Association.

“Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month observance. In conjunction with the theme, buttons are being distributed across campus bearing the likeness of Madam C.J. Walker, the hair products magnate who was hailed as the first self-made African-American millionaire in the country in the early 20th century.

You can learn more about 2017 Women’s History Month events at MTSU here.

MTSU NWHM 2017 button webMTSU’s Black History Month Committee decided to co-sponsor the university’s Women’s History Month keynote address after TV personality Terrence J. had to cancel his planned Feb. 23 Black History Month keynote talk.

Other co-sponsors of Ali’s appearance include the Distinguished Lecture Fund, the Women’s History Month Committee, the Office of Student Success, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, Student Programming and Raider Entertainment, the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the Women’s Health Clinic at Student Health Services, the MTSU student chapter of the NAACP, the Student Government Association, the MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences and the Department of Health and Human Performance.

For more information, contact Barbara Scales, co-chair of the National Women’s History Month Committee, at 615-898-2193 or barbara.scales@mtsu.edu or the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at 615-898-5910.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Pleas Award winner Turnage hailed as ‘perfect faculty member’ [+VIDEO]

The 21st recipient of MTSU’s highest honor for black faculty is being praised as a credit to her profession and a caring mentor to future members of her profession.

Dr. Barbara Turnage, a professor of social work, was presented with the John Pleas Faculty Award at a ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Hazlewood Dining Room of MTSU’s James Union Building.

The award is presented annually during Black History Month to a black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service.

“The award is not about me,” Dr. John Pleas, the retired psychology professor for whom the honor is named, said to Turnage. “It’s about you. It’s about all these individuals who are named on the back of the program that have made contributions to the university.”

As a roomful of colleagues and admirers looked on, Turnage was hailed by her colleagues for her research, teaching and community service. Social work professor John Sanborn called her “fantastically collegial.”

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Turnage has built a social work career that has included providing social services for those with impaired and/or aging parents, new mothers and families with physical and mental health needs.

She also has counseled methadone clients and individuals who were at risk of harming themselves or others. This practical experience has informed her teaching, mentoring and research.

“Her communication abilities are quite amazing, and her bubbly personality is nothing short of infectious,” said Justin Bucchio, an associate professor of social work.

In addition to her academic achievements, Turnage is vice chair of the Board of Directors for Journeys in Community Living, a program that supports adults with intellectual disabilities. She will assume the chair in fall 2017.

“Dr. Turnage exemplifies a passion for helping social work students become self-driven, knowledgeable practitioners,” said Laura R. James, a master’s degree candidate in social work from Murfreesboro. “She cares about our academic performance and supports field opportunities commensurate with our career interests.”

MTSU social work professor Barbara Turnage thanks her family, colleagues and supporters after receiving the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award at a Feb. 21 ceremony in the James Union Building. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU social work professor Barbara Turnage thanks her family, colleagues and supporters after receiving the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award at a Feb. 21 ceremony in the James Union Building. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

At MTSU, Turnage has served on MTSU’s Faculty Senate, the Forrest Hall Review Committee, the Africana Studies Program Development Committee and the International Education and Exchange Committee. She continues to serve on multiple faculty, search, admissions and qualifying exam committees.

In accepting the award, Turnage called her family and colleagues to the podium to share the moment with her.

“Everything we do is based on our foundation, based on people that support us,” said Turnage. “I just wanted you to know my support system. These are people that I know love me no matter what, no matter what I do or say. … I can’t thank them enough for loving me.”

“From the college perspective, you’re the perfect faculty member,” said Dr. Harold Whiteside, dean of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

For more information about the John Pleas Faculty Award, go to www.mtsu.edu/aahm/john-pleas-award.php.

Previous winners of the Pleas Faculty Recognition Award since its inception are:

  • Dr. Bichaka Fayissa, economics professor, 1998.
  • Dr. Laura Jarmon, English professor, 1999.
  • Dr. Gloria Bonner, dean of the College of Education, 2000.
  • Dr. Sharon Shaw-McEwen, social work professor, 2001.
  • Dr. Alphonse Carter, engineering technology professor, 2002.
  • Dr. Bertha Clark, professor of communication disorders, 2003.
  • Dr. Anantha Babbili, 2004, dean of the College of Mass Communication.
  • Dr. Pat Patterson, professor of chemistry, 2005.
  • Dr. Rosemary Owens, dean of continuing studies and public service, 2006.
  • Dr. Connie Wade, chair of the Department of Elementary and Special Education, 2007.
  • Dr. Marva Lucas, chair of the Department of University Studies, 2008.
  • Dr. Adonijah Bakari, history professor, 2009.
  • Dr. Dwight Patterson, 2010, chemistry professor.
  • Dr. Raphael Bundage, 2011, music professor.
  • Dr. Cheryl Slaughter Ellis, professor of community and public health, 2012.
  • Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, 2013.
  • Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor, 2014.
  • Dr. Michaele Chappell, professor of mathematics education and coordinator for the Masters of Science in Teaching program, 2015.
  • Dr. Linda Clark, professor of mathematics in the Department of University Studies, 2016.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

MTSU social work professor Barbara Turnage, left, receives the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award from Professor Emeritus John Pleas at a Feb. 21 ceremony in the James Union Building. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU social work professor Barbara Turnage, left, receives the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award from Professor Emeritus John Pleas at a Feb. 21 ceremony in the James Union Building.

Dr. John Pleas, emeritus professor of psychology, gives remarks Tuesday, Feb. 21, before presenting the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award to Dr. Barbara F. Turnage, professor in the Department of Social Work. The ceremony was held in the Hazlewood Dining Room of the James Union Building. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Dr. John Pleas, emeritus professor of psychology, speaks Tuesday, Feb. 21, before presenting the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Award to Dr. Barbara F. Turnage, professor in the Department of Social Work.


Social work professor to receive MTSU top minority faculty honor Feb. 21

Feb. 15, 2017

An MTSU professor whose dedication to others has been the hallmark of her career is the 2017 John Pleas Faculty Recognition Award honoree.

Dr. Barbara Turnage

Dr. Barbara Turnage

Social work professor Barbara Turnage will receive the award in a 4 p.m. ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Hazlewood Dining Room of the James Union Building.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. A campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap. Off-campus visitors attending the ceremony should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at www.mtsu.edu/parking/visit.php.

MTSU presents the John Pleas Faculty Award each year during Black History Month to a minority faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service. The honor, established in 1997, is named for Dr. John Pleas, an MTSU professor emeritus of psychology.

Turnage, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, has built a social work career that has included providing social services for families with impaired and/or aging parents, new mothers and families with physical and mental health needs.

She also has counseled methadone clients and individuals who were at risk of harming themselves or others. This practical experience has informed her teaching, mentoring and research.

Dr John Pleas web

Dr. John Pleas

At MTSU, Turnage has served on MTSU’s Faculty Senate, the Forrest Hall Review Committee, the Africana Studies Program Development Committee and the International Education and Exchange Committee. She continues to serve on multiple faculty, search, admissions and qualifying exam committees.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.

Click on the 2017 poster to see a larger PDF version.

In addition to her academic achievements, Turnage serves as vice chair of the board of directors for Murfreesboro’s Journeys in Community Living, a program formerly known as the Rutherford Adult Activity Center that supports adults with intellectual disabilities. She will assume the board’s chair in fall 2017.

Turnage, a first-generation high school graduate, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She earned her doctorate in social work from Tulane University and earned a four-year regents’ fellowship there.

Pleas Award nominees must have completed at least five years of service at MTSU and have a record of outstanding service. Each nominee must have three letters to support his or her nomination.

For more information about the John Pleas Faculty Recognition Award at MTSU, contact Dr. Linda Clark, professor of mathematics in the Department of University Studies and the 2016 Pleas Award winner, at 615-904-8234 or linda.clark@mtsu.edu.

Along with Clark, previous winners of the Pleas Faculty Recognition Award since its inception are:

  • Dr. Bichaka Fayissa, economics professor, 1998.
  • Dr. Laura Jarmon, English professor, 1999.
  • Dr. Gloria Bonner, dean of the College of Education, 2000.
  • Dr. Sharon Shaw-McEwen, social work professor, 2001.
  • Dr. Alphonse Carter, engineering technology professor, 2002.
  • Dr. Bertha Clark, professor of communication disorders, 2003.
  • Dr. Anantha Babbili, 2004, dean of the College of Mass Communication.
  • Dr. Pat Patterson, professor of chemistry, 2005.
  • Dr. Rosemary Owens, dean of continuing studies and public service, 2006.
  • Dr. Connie Wade, chair of the Department of Elementary and Special Education, 2007.
  • Dr. Marva Lucas, chair of the Department of University Studies, 2008.
  • Dr. Adonijah Bakari, history professor, 2009.
  • Dr. Dwight Patterson, 2010, chemistry professor.
  • Dr. Raphael Bundage, 2011, music professor.
  • Dr. Cheryl Slaughter Ellis, professor of community and public health, 2012.
  • Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, 2013.
  • Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor, 2014.
  • Dr. Michaele Chappell, professor of mathematics education and coordinator for the Masters of Science in Teaching program, 2015.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Unity Luncheon honors 11 local heroes for ‘doing the right thing’ [+VIDEO]

Eleven humanitarian leaders were acknowledged Thursday, Feb. 16, for their good works at MTSU’s 21st annual Unity Luncheon in the Student Union Ballroom.

The Black History Month Committee and the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs hosted the annual event, which honors unsung heroes for their contributions in the areas of education, black arts, community service, excellence in sports and civility.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee made welcoming remarks and presented the statuettes to each honoree.

In his luncheon address before a crowd of more than 300 attendees, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn struck a theme of “doing the right thing.”

The MTSU alumnus credited his family, some of whom were in attendance, in helping him become a productive citizen, starting with his career in law enforcement with the McMinnville Police Department.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that there’s a lot more good people in this world than there are bad,” said Gwyn. “It’s just that my calling is to protect those good people.”

Gwyn is on his third term as TBI director. For the past 13 years, he has been the only African-American director of a state bureau of investigation in the nation.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, an MTSU alumnus, delivers the address at the 21st annual Unity Luncheon Feb. 16 in the Student Union.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, an MTSU alumnus, delivers the address at the 21st annual Unity Luncheon Feb. 16 in the Student Union.

“For me, it’s a sense of pride, but it’s a sense of obligation,” said Gwyn. “I’ve got to represent a little better, and I’m OK with that … I don’t do it because I’m African-American. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

A fellow law enforcement veteran, former Smyrna, Tennessee, Assistant Police Chief Vernal Young, was one of the Unity Luncheon honorees.

“We started the first drug program here in Rutherford County,” said Young, an honoree as an advocate of civility. “We went from primary schools to high schools … I really enjoy working with people.”

One of the community service honorees, Navita Gunter of Guthrie, Kentucky, has triumphed over both domestic violence and cancer. She was chosen for founding the Cervical Cancer Coalition of Tennessee.

“Really, it’s not for me,” Gunter said of her award. “It’s for the people that I’m really trying to help by sharing my story of survival. … That’s why I do it.”

Each year, MTSU’s Unity Luncheon honors dedicated leaders who haven’t been recognized for their outstanding contributions to education, community service, civility advocacy, sports and black arts.

Along with Young and Gunter, this year’s honorees and their areas of recognition include:

  • Dr. Bichaka Fayissa, a native of Ethiopia and a professor in MTSU’s Department of Economics and Finance; education.
  • Dr. Jacqueline Jackson of Lexington, Kentucky, a retired MTSU Department of English professor; education. Jackson was unable to attend the ceremony, and MTSU English professor Frances Henderson accepted the award on her behalf.
  • Evelyn James of Murfreesboro, a retired nursery school teacher and member of Ardent Workers of First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro; education.
  • Carl Marable of Murfreesboro, the director of Second Chance Outreach Ministries; community service.
  • Ernest Newsom of Murfreesboro, a clarinetist and psychologist; contributions to black arts.
  • Albert Richardson Jr. of Murfreesboro, a community volunteer and humanitarian; community service.
  • Revonda J. Rucker of Murfreesboro, a registered nurse and funeral director; community service.
  • James Douglas Watkins of Murfreesboro, a former community school director and athletic mentor in Flint, Michigan; excellence in sports.
  • Martha Womack of Murfreesboro, a community volunteer and humanitarian; community service.

For more information about the Unity Luncheon and how to recognize an unsung community hero, contact the MTSU Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs at 615-898-5812 or ida@mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, far left, poses with the 2017 Unity Luncheon honorees following the Feb. 16 awards presentation at the Student Union. Standing from left to right, are McPhee, Bichaka Fayissa, Carl Marable, Albert Richardson Jr., Ernest Newsom, James Douglas Watkins and Vernal Young. Seated, from left, are Navita Gunter, Evelyn James, Revonda J. Rucker and Martha Womack. Not pictured is honoree Jacqueline Jackson, who was unable to attend. (MTSU photos by Andy Heidt)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, far left, poses with the 2017 Unity Luncheon honorees following the Feb. 16 awards presentation at the Student Union. Standing from left to right, are McPhee, Bichaka Fayissa, Carl Marable, Albert Richardson Jr., Ernest Newsom, James Douglas Watkins and Vernal Young. Seated, from left, are Navita Gunter, Evelyn James, Revonda J. Rucker and Martha Womack. Not pictured is honoree Jacqueline Jackson, who was unable to attend. (MTSU photos by Andy Heidt)

Martha Womack of Murfreesboro, left, chats with fellow honoree Evelyn James at the 21st annual MTSU Unity Luncheon Feb. 16 in the Student Union as other honorees, friends and guests talk in the background.

Martha Womack of Murfreesboro, left, chats with fellow honoree Evelyn James at the 21st annual MTSU Unity Luncheon Feb. 16 in the Student Union as other honorees, friends and guests talk in the background.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version of MTSU’s 2017 Black History Month events.

Terrence J. cancels Feb. 23 Black History Month appearance at MTSU

Terrence J., set as the featured speaker for MTSU’s 2017 Black History Month celebration, will not be able to visit the campus as planned.

Terrence J.

Terrence J.

The Black History Month Committee said the television personality, whose real name is Terrence Jenkins, is canceling his scheduled 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, address in the Student Union because of “an unavoidable scheduling conflict with a movie project that is currently filming on location.”

MTSU’s Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs is working with the MTSU Women’s History Month Committee to book a high-profile replacement speaker for Women’s History Month in March. More details are expected soon.

For more information, contact the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs at 615-898-5812 or ida@mtsu.edu. You can find information on the remaining Black History Month activities at MTSU, along with an events calendar, at www.mtsunews.com/black-history-month-2017.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

History, future converge in 2017 MTSU Black History Month events

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the cancellation of featured speaker Terrence J‘s scheduled Feb. 23 appearance.)

MTSU’s celebration of Black History Month is all about marching ahead while appreciating the marches of history.

“Empowering Future Leaders: Moving Forward while Reaching Back” is the theme of the 2017 Black History Month events, which will begin with the official kickoff from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in the Student Union’s first-floor atrium.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.

Click on the poster to see a larger PDF version.

The Black History Month Committee will cut a special cake and provide other refreshments while introducing the month’s agenda. 

A printable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMapOff-campus visitors attending daytime events should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at www.mtsu.edu/parking/visit.php.

Mark Gwyn

Mark Gwyn

Featured items include the 21st annual Unity Luncheon, which is slated for 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the second floor ballroom of the Student Union. MTSU alumnus Mark Gwyn, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director, will deliver the keynote address.

The luncheon honors unsung leaders who have made outstanding contributions in the areas of education, community service, civility advocacy, sports and black arts. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students or $250 for a table. Tickets may be purchased online at http://mtsu.edu/aahm/unity_luncheon.php.

Dr. Kyle Mays-Wabinaw, a scholar of African-American and Native American studies from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will speak at the Phi Alpha Theta initiation ceremony, which will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Room 160 of the College of Education building.

A reception with light refreshments will precede the ceremony. This event is co-sponsored by the MTSU Department of History and the African-American Studies Program.

Dr. Kyle Mays-Wabinaw

Dr. Kyle Mays-Wabinaw

The winner of the 2017 John Pleas Award will be announced in a ceremony from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Hazlewood Room of the James Union Building.

The award is presented each year to a black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service. It was established in 1997 to honor Dr. John Pleas, an MTSU professor emeritus of psychology.

With the exception of the Unity Luncheon, all events are free and open to the public. For a complete list of events, go to www.mtsu.edu/aahm/docs/2017-aahm-calendar2.pdf.

For more information, contact Daniel Green, director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, at 615-898-5812 or daniel.green@mtsu.edu.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Dec. 28’s the deadline to nominate MTSU Unity Luncheon honorees

Middle Tennessee residents now have more time to help thank and honor neighbors who’ve spent their lives dedicated to the greater good.

4 hands unity luncheon graphic croppedMTSU’s Black History Month Committee has expanded the deadline to submit nominees for its annual Unity Luncheon awards to Wednesday, Dec. 28. Nominations may be submitted at www.mtsu.edu/aahm/unity-awards.php.

The Unity Luncheon, an MTSU tradition since 1996, occurs during the university’s annual celebration of Black History Month each February. The event honors unsung heroes who are 60 years of age or older, have lived in Middle Tennessee for 25 years or more and who have made outstanding contributions to their community.

You can see a list of previous Unity Award recipients here.

Awards are presented in categories of education, community service, civility, excellence in sports and contributions to black arts. Nominations may be submitted in one category only.

The 2017 Unity Awards Luncheon is scheduled for Feb. 16 in MTSU’s Student Union Ballroom. Advance ticket information is available at www.mtsu.edu/aahm.

For more information, contact Daniel Green, director of MTSU’s Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs and chair of the MTSU Black History Month Committee, at 615-898-5812 or daniel.green@mtsu.edu.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Unity Luncheon speaker: ‘Everyday changes’ affect society [+VIDEO]

A criminal appeals court judge said Thursday, Feb. 18, that the answer to America’s problems lies not with politicians but with people who commit to do little things every day to greatly improve their society.

Judge Camille R. McMullen, the first African-American woman to serve on an intermediate court in Tennessee, delivered the keynote address at MTSU’s 20th annual Unity Luncheon Feb. 18 in the Student Union Ballroom.

“I honestly think the answers come from people who are here today, the people that you are honoring and celebrating today,” McMullen said.

McMullen acknowledged that, despite the efforts of “unsung heroes” like the luncheon’s community-minded honorees, society seems to be fighting some of the same battles over and over, including “the fact the United States Supreme Court has now reversed certain pivotal portions of the Voting Rights Act and now could possibly revisit landmark cases that affect affirmative action.”

McMullen encouraged the audience to appreciate that our country’s differences make it stronger and reminded them that all people must work together for the common good.

“I truly believe that the small changes, the everyday changes, have a ripple effect on our society,” she said. “I truly believe that if we all view our differences as plusses rather than minuses, this world would be a better place.”

An MTSU tradition since 1996, the Unity Luncheon celebrates unsung community heroes age 60 or older who have lived in the Middle Tennessee area for 25 years or more and who have made outstanding contributions to their society in education, community service, black arts, sports or as advocates of civility.

Judge Camille R. McMullen of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals addresses the audience at the 2016 MTSU Unity Luncheon Feb. 18 in the Student Union Ballroom. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Judge Camille R. McMullen of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals addresses the audience at the 2016 MTSU Unity Luncheon Feb. 18 in the Student Union Ballroom. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

This year’s honorees were:

  • Ray Fite, a delegate to district association ministries and state convention who also performs many other duties for Cherry Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro.
  • Marva Hudspeth, a retired alcohol and drug treatment counselor and volunteer at Mt. Pleasant Middle School’s Kindle Club and Mt. Pleasant Historical Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee.
  • Jo Anne Gaunt, financial secretary of Berry Chapel AME Church in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and recipient of the Distinguished Toastmaster Certificate from Toastmasters International.
  • Joe Herbert, Rutherford County educator and administrator for more than 40 years and an advocate for educational equity.
  • The Rev. Robert D. James, pastor of St. John United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, former assistant principal at Murfreesboro’s Riverdale High School and a three-time NFL Pro Bowler as a Buffalo Bills defensive back from 1969 to 1974.
  • The Rev. H. Bruce Maxwell, pastor of Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville for 40 years and a member of Belmont University’s board of trustees.
  • Russell D. Merriweather, a volunteer for AARP in the Nashville area and 2010 recipient of Tennessee’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service.
  • Albert Nelson, minister of Sand Hill Church of Christ in La Vergne, Tennessee, a member of Friends of Bradley Academy and a mentor to fifth- and sixth-grade boys through a Delta Sigma Theta program.
  • Florine Ratliff, an MTSU alumna and teacher for 30 years at Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School in Murfreesboro.

Former Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Chief Cumbey Gaines, the first African-American to hold that position, received a special Trailblazer Award.

Gaines, who retired in 2015, had served the city for 35 years. He was the department’s first African-American inspector, shift commander and deputy chief.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

The 2016 honorees at MTSU's annual Unity Luncheon are, from left to right, Joe Herbert, the Rev. Robert D. James Sr., Marva Hudspeth, the Rev. H. Bruce Maxwell, Ray Fite, Jo Anne Gaunt, Trailblazer Award recipient Cumbey Gaines, Russell D. Merriweather, Florine Ratliff and Albert Nelson.

The 2016 honorees at MTSU’s annual Unity Luncheon are, from left to right, Joe Herbert, the Rev. Robert D. James Sr., Marva Hudspeth, the Rev. H. Bruce Maxwell, Ray Fite, Jo Anne Gaunt, Trailblazer Award recipient Cumbey Gaines, Russell D. Merriweather, Florine Ratliff and Albert Nelson.

Former Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Chief Cumbey Gaines, left, accepts the 2016 Unity Luncheon's Trailblazer Award from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee during the Feb. 18 luncehon in the Student Union Ballroom. Gaines, the first African-American to hold that position, received a special Trailblazer Award. Gaines, who retired in 2015, served the city for 35 years and was the department’s first African-American inspector, shift commander and deputy chief.

Former Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Chief Cumbey Gaines, left, accepts the 2016 Unity Luncheon’s Trailblazer Award from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee during the Feb. 18 luncehon in the Student Union Ballroom. Gaines, who retired in 2015, served the city for 35 years and was the department’s first African-American inspector, shift commander and deputy chief.

Black History Month 2016 illus

Click on the illustration for a link to MTSU’s complete 2016 Black History Month event calendar.

Pleas Faculty Award winner says she’s ‘just doing her job’ [+VIDEO]

Generosity and accessibility are only two of the qualities that Dr. Linda M. Clark’s colleagues believe made her a worthy recipient of MTSU’s 2016 John Pleas Award.

The associate professor of mathematics in the Department of University Studies received the honor Feb. 25 in the Tom H. Jackson Building following a series of accolades from her fellow educators and former students.

“You work with your students and encourage them and provide that extra ‘whatever they need’ to be successful, not just in that class, but in MTSU as a whole,” said Dr. David Gotcher, interim dean of the University College.

The John Pleas Faculty Award was established in 1997 to honor Pleas, a professor emeritus of psychology and recipient of the 1999 Outstanding Teaching Award. It is presented each year to a minority faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service.

Nominees must have completed at least five years of service at MTSU and have a record of outstanding service. Each nominee must have three letters to support his or her nomination.

A video of the 2016 award ceremony is available below.

Dr. Marva Lucas, chair of the Department of University Studies, noted that Clark’s assertion that she is just “doing her job” is indicative of her modesty.

“I can remember when you were hired on full-time,” Lucas told the honoree at the ceremony. “As your friend, as your colleague and as your chair, I have seen you turn challenges into opportunities.”

“You are a person who is dedicated as you are proficient,” said Dr. Gloria Bonner, assistant to the president of MTSU, said to Clark. “You are also someone who is as knowledgeable as you are effective, and you are as wise as you are practical.”

In accepting her plaque, Clark thanked God, her family, her colleagues and her students, but she insisted that she really didn’t deserve the award.

Dr. Linda M. Clark, center, smiles after receiving the 2016 John Pleas Award from Drs. Gloria Bonner, left, assistant to the president, and Michaele Chappell, a professor of mathematical sciences and the 2015 Pleas Award recipient, at a Feb. 26 ceremony in MTSU’s Tom H. Jackson Building. (MTSU Photo by J. Intintoli)

Dr. Linda M. Clark, center, smiles after receiving the 2016 John Pleas Award from Drs. Gloria Bonner, left, assistant to the president, and Michaele Chappell, a professor of mathematical sciences and the 2015 Pleas Award recipient, at a Feb. 26 ceremony in MTSU’s Tom H. Jackson Building. (MTSU Photo by J. Intintoli)

“You could walk down the hall in SAG (Stark Agricultural Building) and over in Peck Hall, as well, knock on any door, and you will find people, professors, who are concerned with retention and student success,” she said.

An 18-year veteran of the faculty, Clark is a former Faculty Senate representative for her department and a co-organizer of two ACT mathematics preparation workshops funded by a public service grant.

Among her research accomplishments is a paper on the academic success of transfer students entering MTSU. Clark presented the paper at the fourth International Conference on Research in Access and Developmental Education in 2008 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Clark is noted for using innovative multimedia tools to motivate students to do their best work, both on-campus and in distance learning.

Previous winners of the Pleas Faculty Recognition Award since its inception are:

  • Dr. Bichaka Fayissa, economics professor, 1998.
  • Dr. Laura Jarmon, English professor, 1999.
  • Dr. Gloria Bonner, dean of the College of Education, 2000.
  • Dr. Sharon Shaw-McEwen, social work professor, 2001.
  • Dr. Alphonse Carter, engineering technology professor, 2002.
  • Dr. Bertha Clark, professor of communication disorders, 2003.
  • Dr. Anantha Babbili, 2004, then-dean of the College of Mass Communication.
  • Dr. Pat Patterson, professor of chemistry, 2005.
  • Dr. Rosemary Owens, dean of continuing studies and public service, 2006.
  • Dr. Connie Wade, chair of the Department of Elementary and Special Education, 2007.
  • Dr. Marva Lucas, chair of the Department of University Studies, 2008.
  • Dr. Adonijah Bakari, history professor, 2009.
  • Dr. Dwight Patterson, 2010, chemistry professor.
  • Dr. Raphael Bundage, 2011, music professor.
  • Dr. Cheryl Slaughter Ellis, professor of community and public health, 2012.
  • Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, 2013.
  • Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor, 2014.
  • Dr. Michaele Chappell, professor of mathematics education and coordinator for the Masters of Science in Teaching program, 2015.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

[WATCH] MTSU Unity Luncheon speaker: ‘Everyday changes’ affect society

A criminal appeals court judge said Thursday, Feb. 18, that the answer to America’s problems lies not with politicians but with people who commit to do little things every day to greatly improve their society. Judge Camille R. McMullen, the first African-American woman to serve on an intermediate court in Tennessee, delivered the keynote address at MTSU’s 20th annual Unity Luncheon Feb. 18 in the Student Union Ballroom. Here’s a brief recap of her remarks:

Read the full story here.

Video by Jimmy Hart

[WATCH] ESPN’s Smith challenges MTSU students during black history address

MTSU’s Black History Month 2016 keynote speaker encouraged his audience to build on the progress of their predecessors instead of only looking back at those accomplishments. In an address before a standing-room-only audience at MTSU’s Student Union Feb. 17, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said Black History Month “should be about reminding you of what your obligation is, not just reminiscing about what theirs was and how they lived up to it.” Here are excerpts from his address:

Read the full story here.

Video by Jimmy Hart

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