About TSU

An HBCU Legacy

History of TSUTennessee State University is committed to excellence and has been consistently listed in the U.S. News & World Report’sGuide to America’s Best Colleges” for more than a decade. Founded in 1912, TSU is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant institution in Nashville, Tennessee. The university has been served by seven presidents, including Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, who is currently serving as our eighth president.


Our Nashville home offers two locations—the 500-acre main campus nestles in a beautiful residential neighborhood along the Cumberland River, and the downtown Avon Williams campus sits near the center of Nashville’s business and government district.


In 1909, the Tennessee State General Assembly created three normal schools, including the Agricultural and Industrial Normal School, which would grow to become TSU. The first 247 students began their academic careers on June 19, 1912, and William Jasper Hale served as head of the school. Students, faculty, and staff worked together as a family to keep the institution operating, whether the activity demanded clearing rocks, harvesting crops, or carrying chairs from class to class.


The school gained the capacity to grant bachelor’s degrees in 1922, reflecting its new status as a four-year teachers’ college. By 1924, the college became known as the Agricultural and Industrial State Normal College and the first degrees were awarded. In 1927, “Normal” was dropped from the name. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the college grew in scope and stature under the charge “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.”

First President - President Hale

When President Hale retired in 1943 after more than 30 years of service, one of the institution’s growing roster of impressive alumni, Walter S. Davis, was selected as his successor. Until his retirement in 1968, Davis led the college through an era of tremendous growth in academics and facilities that led to worldwide recognition.

The Tennessee General Assembly of 1941 authorized a substantial upgrade to the educational program of the college. Graduate studies leading to the master’s degree, initially offered in several branches of teacher education, were established. The first master’s degrees were awarded in June 1944.



The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted accreditation to TSU in 1946. In August 1951, the Tennessee State Board of Education approved university status. The resulting reorganization of the institution’s educational program created the Graduate School, the School of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education, and the School of Engineering. Provisions were also made for the later addition of other schools in agriculture, business, and home economics.

1924 Graduating Class


Under the name Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University, the institution achieved full land-grant university status in August 1958. The Land-Grant University Program included the School of Agriculture & Home Economics, the Graduate School, the Division of Extension and Continuing Education, and the Department of Aerospace Studies. The School of Allied Health Professions and the School of Business were created in 1974, and the School of Nursing was established in 1979.


After Walter Davis retired as president in 1968, another TSU alumnus, Andrew Torrence, was named the University’s third president. During his relatively brief tenure, the state legislature dropped “Agricultural & Industrial” and officially changed the name to Tennessee State University.


When Frederick Humphries became TSU’s president in 1975, Nashville was also home to a second public four-year university. The Knoxville-based University of Tennessee began offering extension credit in Nashville in 1947 and expanded its programs throughout the 1960s. By 1971, it was accredited as a degree-granting institution that occupied new quarters at the corner of Tenth and Charlotte Avenues. But in 1968, TSU faculty member Rita Sanders filed a lawsuit, which became known as Geier v. Tennessee, alleging a dual system of higher education in Tennessee based on race. On July 1, 1979, the case was settled by a court order merging the former University of Tennessee at Nashville with TSU. As president, Humphries was the first to face the challenge of maintaining the balance between TSU’s role as one of America’s preeminent historically black universities and its emerging status as a comprehensive national university.

The Geier v. Tennessee case, however, remained alive for 32 years. Rita Sanders Geier was joined by the U.S. Department of Justice and by TSU professors Ray Richardson and H. Coleman McGinnis as co-plaintiffs in the suit. After numerous court-ordered plans failed to produce progress, all parties achieved a mediated consent decree that was ordered by the court on January 4, 2001.


Following a year as interim president, Otis Floyd became TSU’s fifth chief executive in 1987 and continued moving the university forward, initiating efforts that resulted in the state general assembly providing an unprecedented $112 million for capital improvements in 1988. Under this plan, nearly all campus buildings were renovated and eight new facilities were constructed, including the Floyd-Payne Campus Center, the Ned McWherter Administration Building, the Wilma Rudolph Residence Center, and the Performing Arts Center.

Then, in 1990, the Tennessee Board of Regents appointed Dr. Floyd its chancellor, opening the way for James Hefner to become TSU’s sixth president in 1991. Hefner supervised additional improvements to campus facilities and fostered enrollment growth to an all-time high of 9,100 students. The Otis Floyd Nursery Crops Research Station in McMinnville was dedicated in 1996, and, in 1999, researchers at the TSU Center for Automated Space Science were the first to discover a planet outside our solar system.

Melvin N. Johnson became the university’s seventh president in June of 2005, and was instrumental in continuing to bring national attention to the university by recognizing the Freedom Riders 14, engaging the university in the Tennessee Campus Compact, receiving national awards for community service and engagement, awarded $8 million for Race to the Top Funds by President Glover and Pat Hairston President Obama, opening the university’s doors to flood victims and businesses, and obtaining Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

In the University’s 100-year history, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover became president in January 2013 and continues making changes to further emphasize the excellence for which TSU is known worldwide.


Today, Tennessee State University offers 45 bachelor’s degree programs and 24 master’s degree programs and awards doctoral degrees in biological sciences, computer information systems engineering, psychology, public administration, curriculum and instruction, educational administration and supervision, and physical therapy. In entirety, Tennessee State University comprises eight colleges and schools.


TSU & the Olympics

Tigerbelles - 1960

Tennessee State University has a rich Olympic heritage involving the TSU Tigerbelles.

Coach Ed Temple - Former TSU track Coach Ed Temple, who was the head coach of two Olympic teams, was selected as a member of the 2012 class of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Read more.

A statue of Ed Temple will be constructed at the new Nashville Sounds’ ballpark which is intended to provide the most exposure for the legendary Tennessee State women’s track coach, Mayor Karl Dean said.


View TSU Library Olympic Slideshow



Wilma Rudolph , a TSU Tigerbelle, was an Olympic Sprint Champion - Read more about her athletic feats on the official Olympics website .




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