TSU Honors Program director takes retirement leap behind pulpit

During the Spring 2013 Honors Convocation, Dr. Sandra Holt assisted with the presentation of awards to graduating senior members of the Honors Programs. (l to r): TSU President Glenda Glover; Honors Program senior Jasmine Hudson; Dr. Sandra Holt; and Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.

During the Spring 2013 Honors Convocation, Dr. Sandra Holt assisted with the presentation of awards to graduating senior members of the Honors Programs. (l to r): TSU President Glenda Glover; Honors Program senior Jasmine Hudson; Dr. Sandra Holt; and Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.

When the new academic year begins at TSU this fall, one familiar face will not be ‘so visible’ in the crowd.

Dr. Sandra Holt, whose name for the last 21 years was synonymous with the University Honors Program as its director, has retired, after serving more than 40 years as a faculty and administrator.

“Forty years and 11 months was the time it took to complete my mission at TSU,” said the ordained minister. “My various works here were very rewarding; however, I believe my time right now is to be spent in ministry.”

Holt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in ‘speech and drama’ from TSU in 1971, began her professional career at the university in the summer of the following year as an instructor in the communications department. She would move up the ranks to associate professor, and simultaneously hold several other key positions including director of the Women’s Center.

But her role as head of the Honors Program for more than two decades is the one for which she is most noted. She rebuilt the program from a few students to one of the best in the nation through an aggressive recruitment effort, revamping classes, and with attention to details.

Under her leadership the Honors Program initiated several other programs aimed to further enhance student learning and development, including freshman mentoring, new student orientation, fall leadership retreat, travel abroad and an Honors Week.

“Today the UHP is strong, well known and respected throughout the country,” Holt said.

While Dr. Holt is retiring, she can be sure that the Honors Program is in good hands with the appointment of Dr. Coreen Dawkins Jackson, who is capable and comes highly recommended with vigor and foresight to move the program forward.

A 10-year member of the TSU faculty, Dr. Jackson is a tenured associate professor of ‘mass communications,’ who (as an added incentive for her new role) directs the internship program in the Department of Communications.

She holds a Ph.D. in mass communications from Howard University, an M.S. in broadcast journalism from Brooklyn College, and a B.A. in speech communication with a minor in Spanish from William Jewell College.

Her goal, she said, is to increase the visibility of the Honors Program by building it into the “premier program of the university, and develop best practices by implementing and adhering to the National Collegiate Honors Council standards common to successful and fully developed honors programs.”

“I feel excited to embark upon a new challenge that I am convinced is a God-given assignment to increase the visibility and level of academic excellence and participation

in the University Honors Program,” Jackson, also an ordained minister, said recently in thanking TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover for her appointment. “It is equally exciting to be able to build on the strong foundational work accomplished by my predecessor, Dr. Sandra Holt.

“I count it a privilege and an honor to carry on the mission of the university and to fulfill President Glover’s vision of making the Honors Program the premier program of the university.”

Recently, at the 2013 Honors Day program in Kean Hall, while highlighting the accomplishments of its outstanding students, the university, in a long, standing ovation, with flowers and a plaque presented by President Glover, recognized the accomplishments and contribution of Dr. Holt.

The president thanked Dr. Holt for her years of dedication and commitment to TSU and congratulated Dr. Jackson and wished her success in her new role.

Jackson spearheaded the Honors Day program along with her assistant director, Dr. D. Lee McGahey, who is also coordinator of Tiger Alert, a student success program.

Dr. Holt may have retired but you can be sure she is not departing from TSU.

“My blood runs true blue. Even in retirement I am dedicate to helping TSU students become the best they can be,” she said. “For now, I hope to put my minister’s license to good use.”