Tennessee State University recently recognized its best and brightest students with the university’s first-ever virtual Honors Day Convocation. More than 2,100 students with grade point averages of 3.0 or higher were recognized on March 2 for academic excellence.
Among the honorees were 400 President’s List scholars. These are students who have maintained 4.0 GPAs throughout their matriculation.
Damyon J. Thompson, a 2003 TSU graduate and chief of staff to the general manager of IBM’s Automation Division, was the keynote speaker. Thompson was a member of the Honors College at TSU.
Before Thompson’s keynote speech, TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the honorees for their achievements. She challenged them to further develop their talents “to be the leaders you have been chosen to be.”
“Honors Day is more than personal recognition; it is a challenge to soar even higher,” Glover said. “As honors students, we will depend on you to research challenges and issues and to develop solutions that will remake our university. Whether it is the COVID pandemic, or racial injustice—it is you, our honorees, who must contribute to finding a path that leads to solutions to the threats that we currently face.”
Thompson, who earned two bachelor’s degrees (computer science, business information systems) from TSU, started his remarks with a $50,000 donation to the university’s Enterprise Computing program, on behalf of him and his sister, Shari D. Thompson, a 2006 TSU graduate and member of the Honors College. A high industry demand area, the enterprise computing initiative was launched at TSU in 2014 to help prepare students to compete for high-paying enterprise internships and jobs.
Speaking on ‘Promoting Academic Excellence, Breaking Paradigms, and Transforming Growth Leaders in the New Decade,’ Thompson told the honorees that to succeed they must have a growth mindset, be technologically inclined, and have an executable plan. He said the world is filled with people with fixed mindsets, who are afraid of challenges or failure, and those with growth mindsets who embrace change, challenges and see failure as a chance ‘to pivot’ and learn from their mistakes.
“At age 29, I took the chance to advance my career and took a job in a foreign country where I knew no one. I did not understand the culture, but I am glad I did it. It paid off,” said Thompson, who engages with business unit leaders to execute the direction of the 7,000-person, $5 billion IBM division.
“I embraced the challenge and the change because, I said, ‘you know what, if I can learn and grow from this, it will really set me up when I return home.’ And it did, although with challenges. I had a growth mindset. I said let me jump in; let me embrace the change; let me go across the world and see what happens,” Thompson said. “In the midst of COVID-19, the social justice reckoning of 2020, economic uncertainty, and the massive amount of debt students are facing every day, we have to hit the ground running. We have to keep our focus ahead.”
Meleena Warters and Larry McNary, Honors College scholars, were among the students recognized at the virtual convocation. They are inspired and are very grateful for the recognition given for their academic achievements.
“I know it takes a lot of work to be on the honor roll or on the Dean’s List, but to have your peers, the institution and speakers come out and congratulate you on a personal level is really very important and feels good,” said Warters, a junior mass communications major from Brentwood, Tennessee, with a 3.9 GPA.
McNary agreed. “This is about recognizing the hard work that students put in, and that means a lot,” he said. “I feel grateful and supported to be a part of something like that.” McNary, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He has a 3.7 GPA.
Among those also recognized were Honors College Scholars, those on the Dean’s List, members of the university-wide Honor Societies, Student Leadership Award recipient, the top graduating seniors, and the recipient of the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship for Academic Excellence.
Michael Harris, interim vice president for Academic Affairs; Dr. Coreen Jackson, interim dean of the Honors College; and other senior officials participated in the convocation.