NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University alumna Oprah Winfrey is coming home to headline TSU’s Spring Commencement as the keynote speaker for the undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m. CDT, in Hale Stadium. United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Miss-Second District, will address graduate students at an indoor ceremony on Friday, May 5 at 5 p.m. CDT, in the Gentry Center Complex. Over 800 students will receive degrees in various disciplines across both days.
“Commencement is always a special time for our students and their families, as it marks a major milestone in our students’ lives and a sign of success for them,” says TSU, Dr. President Glenda Glover.
“To have Ms. Winfrey as our speaker will be a life-changing moment for graduates and the University. She is someone who has walked the TSU campus as a student, sat in some of the same classroom, and knows first-hand the value of a TSU education. Ms. Winfrey and Congressman Thompson are trailblazers, history makers and HBCU graduates, adding to the excitement and anticipation for both commencement ceremonies.”
Oprah Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actress and author. Over the course of her esteemed career, she has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today. Growing up, Winfrey went to high school at East Nashville High School and attended Tennessee State University on a full scholarship, majoring in communications. While at TSU, Winfrey landed a job at Nashville’s WLAC-TV (now WTVF-TV), where she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor. Despite being one credit short of her degree, Winfrey decided to leave school and Nashville to pursue her dream of being a broadcast journalist.
However, in 1986, she returned to submit her final paper and officially graduated from TSU. Now, Oprah Winfrey is a dedicated philanthropist and has contributed more than $200 million towards providing education for academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. Winfrey is a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Winfrey’s Morehouse Scholars Program has supported over 600 men graduate from college, and in 2020, Winfrey donated over $20 million in vital COVID-19 relief support to cities around the country, including her hometowns of Nashville, Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Kosciusko, MS.
Born in a state with a unique history of racial inequality, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson draws inspiration from the legacies of Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, and Henry Kirksey. The Bolton, Mississippi native considers it an honor to walk the path Mississippi civil rights icons paved decades ago. Serving his 15th term in the United States House of Representatives, Thompson represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District where he has spent his entire life fighting to improve the lives of all people.
TSU 2023 Spring Commencement
Congressman Thompson is the longest-serving African American elected official in the State of Mississippi and the longest Democrat in the Mississippi Congressional Delegation. He began his grassroots political activism being a civil rights champion through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while a student at Tougaloo College – a private historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi.
His reputation as a no-nonsense problem solver has earned him the trust of his constituents and the respect of his colleagues in Washington. In 1975, he was a plaintiff in a lawsuit that resulted in a
$503 million increase in funding for Mississippi’s historically black universities. In 2000,
Congressman Thompson’s legislation creating the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities became law.
Congressman Thompson served on the Agriculture, Budget, and Small Business Committees before assuming the top Democratic position on Homeland Security in 2005. Soon after, his colleagues promoted Congressman Thompson to serve as the first-ever Democratic Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
For more information on TSU 2023 Spring Commencement and full bios on Ms. Winfrey and Congressman Thompson, visit www.tnstate.edu/commencement.