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GW alum, university president named Tennessee person of the year

Courtesy of Kelli Sharpe
Glenda Baskin Glover joins hands with Vice President Kamala Harris at the TSU Commencement Ceremony in 2022.

The Tennessee Tribune named a GW alum and the president of Tennessee State University one of its 2023 People of the Year in December for her advocacy for increased funding of historically Black colleges and universities.

Glenda Baskin Glover, TSU’s first female president, announced in August her plans to step down from the helm of TSU after 11 years in the role, during which she more than doubled TSU’s endowment funds, increased TSU’s research status to “high research activity” and enhanced grant funding to an all-time high of more than $100 million in 2023. She said her selection by the Tennessee Tribune, while a surprise, puts her in a position to interact more with students and put them on the “right track” to stay in school.

“It remains an honor to be named the person of the year, especially by such a notable organization as the Tennessee Tribune, so I’m just very appreciative and humbled by the selection,” Glover said.

Glover said her parents always stressed education in her home growing up, particularly by encouraging her to attend an HBCU — higher education institutions established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve Black students — which led her to complete her undergraduate studies at TSU. Glover said she received a doctorate in business at GW in 1990 wanting to go into the educational world and teach Black students how to participate in business and the economy.

After receiving her degree, Glover said she served as a chair in the accounting department at Howard University and then served as a dean in the business school at Jackson State University. Becoming a university president was her next step, she said.

“It was a natural trajectory to continue my mission of educating communities, especially communities of color. So becoming the president, a college president, was the next course of action,” she said. “And I credit the start of this journey at that level to George Washington, because without a terminal degree, I don’t think this would have been possible.”

Glover said when she was in elementary school she watched her friend’s house burn down because the fire department wasn’t allowed to enter her predominantly Black neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1960s. She said her father, a civil rights leader in Memphis, led a march downtown the next day to protest for fire protection in her neighborhood and other neighborhoods of color.

After witnessing the fire and her father’s subsequent activism, Grover said she knew she wanted to have a career focused on educating communities of color despite not picturing herself as a university president at the time.

“When I found there were tears in my eyes, I knew then that I wanted to have a career that focused on helping the underserved, I didn’t know the word ‘underserved’ at that time, by helping underserved communities and others like that,” Glover said.

Glover said her work as TSU’s university president since January 2013 led President Joe Biden to appoint her to serve as the vice chair on the President’s Board of Advisers for HBCUs in 2021. She said the role has put her in a position to do a more thorough analysis of what HBCUs need to operate.

Grover said she has seen an unequal distribution of funds to HBCUs compared to predominantly white institutions while at TSU. Secretaries of education and agriculture sent letters to 16 governors in October 2023 after finding a more than $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant HBCUs and non-HBCU land-grant peer schools in their states.

She found that underfunding at HBCUs has prevented the institutions from reaching their full research potential, a finding she presented to Biden in June 2023.

Glover is one of two Black women in the country to be a certified public accountant and have a doctorate and a law degree — which she received from Georgetown University — according to her profile in the Tennessee Tribune. She said holding this title, while an honor, means that she has not done her job of bringing someone else like her into that success.

“Being the first is great, but being the only is a tragedy, because that means that you haven’t prepared everybody else to come behind you and walk and do the things that you are doing,” Glover said.

Glover is also the former international president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority — the first historically Black intercollegiate sorority. As international president from 2018 to 2022, Glover said she raised more than $2 million to support HBCUs in 2021.

“It takes funding for HBCUs to operate,” Glover said. “So I’ve spent a lot of time educating various constituencies about the struggles of HBCUs and the funds and how the funds are needed.”

Glover said her biggest accomplishment is seeing students graduate, and she hasn’t yet decided what the next chapter is for her — but she will take the opportunity to rest and focus on her spiritual life.

“I know that God is leading me and I don’t put the brakes on God,” Glover said. “So I’m working now to determine just what that next wheel is for my life.”

Rosetta Miller-Perry, the founder and CEO of the Tennessee Tribune, said a selection committee composed of herself, the vice president of The Tennessee Tribune and a journalist from staff chooses the paper’s Person or People of the Year each year. She said the selection committee looks for someone who is not just a figurehead but someone who is actively involved with people in their community.

She said Glover has a “concern” for people, especially those who are underserved.

“She is very active in the community. She’s not one that sits at her desk like a lot of the college presidents do,” Miller-Perry said. “She participates in almost every city activity in Nashville and she’s a strong advocate for helping the underserved students and others in Nashville.”

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About the Contributor
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
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