Sunday, March 26, 2023

MTSU kicks off Women’s History Month, honors community ‘Trailblazers’


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Photos by Angele Latham / MTSU Sidelines

National Women’s History Month kicked off to a great start Tuesday evening during the Opening Ceremony in the Student Union Ballroom, thanks to the collaborative efforts of faculty, staff and the community.

The ceremony featured extraordinary live music, performed in honor of Aretha Franklin, who is featured on the National Women’s History Month button.

Franklin, who passed away in 2018, was a Grammy-award winning artist and the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A fine example of activism and dedication, Franklin won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her activism and impact.

This kind of attitude was exactly what the MTSU’s National Women’s History Month Committee was looking to honor. With this year’s theme of “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence,” which “recognizes women who consciously built supportive, nonviolent alternatives and loving communities as well as advocating change,” according to the June Anderson Center for Women and Non-Traditional Students’ website, the committee wants to reward women for their activism with the Trailblazer Award.

“We’re honoring several different women within our community that have done amazing things,” said Barbara Scales, the director of the June Anderson Center. “They’re voted by our community. We had twenty nominees, and we narrowed it down to five (of our) faculty and staff and one student as the Future Trailblazer who is doing amazing things.”

“These honorees have embraced the fact that our strategies do impact our outcome,” said Chandra Story, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. “And so they have developed nonviolent methods to ensure … peace for us.”

The honorees so glowingly praised included:

  • Dr. Bene Cox, English professor heavily involved in campus and community service.
  • Jeanette Moore King, original faculty at the Middle Tennessee State University Normal School and contributor to science education in Tennessee. (Received posthumously).
  • Lynda Williams, Criminal Justice professor and retired deputy assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service.
  • Dr. Barbara Turnage, Behavioral and Human Science associate professor and interim associate dean of the Department of Social Work.
  • Dr. Mary Evans, Honors college associate professor.

Honored as the Future Trailblazer of the year was Tess Shelton, MTSU senior and president of Generation Action, an MTSU student organization advocating for reproductive rights and – in what earned her the Trailblazing title – free menstrual products in campus restrooms.

Tess Shelton recieving her Student Trailblazer award in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on March 12. (Angele Latham/ Sidelines)

“I think it’s important for our students, faculty, and staff (to come to these events),” Scales said of the presentations. “Our community comes to these events so that they can be aware of … all the things women have done to accomplish the things that help us live today … But I think it could also empower (students and faculty) to want to be activists, as they go out and do amazing things in the community. And hopefully (we) inspire them to do great things.”

“For generations, all of us as women have envisioned peace and justice,” Story said. “…Women have expanded the American tradition of using inclusive, democratic and active means to reduce violence, achieve peace, and promote the better good for all of our community.”

She concluded, saying, “From women’s rights and racial justice, to disarmament and gun control, the drive for nonviolent change is always been championed by visionary women in many different roles across the world, of many different races and ethnicities. Women always have, and still do, give voice to the unrepresented and the underrepresented, while giving hope to all victims of violence, and to all of us, and to those who dream of a peaceful world.”

To contact News Editor Angele Latham, email

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