Frederick S. Humphries, Ph.D., president emeritus of both Tennessee State and Florida A&M Universities, will be the guest speaker at Savannah State University's fall 2010 commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Dec. 11 at Tiger Arena.
About 170 students will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Humphries graduated magna cum laude from FAMU in 1957 with a B.S. in chemistry. Humphries was also a distinguished military science graduate and is reported to have been the first black officer commissioned into the Army Security Agency, the Army's signal intelligence branch from 1945 to 1976, according to SSU.
After two years in the military, he entered the University of Pittsburgh as a teaching assistant in chemistry, became a graduate research fellow in 1960 and earned his doctoral degree in chemistry in 1964, the first black student in university history to earn a doctorate in that discipline.
The Tennessee Board of Regents named Humphries president of TSU in 1974. Humphries and others argued in U.S. District Court that expanding the predominantly white UTN alongside the traditionally black TSU fostered competition for white students and perpetuated segregation, according to SSU.
The court ruled the two schools should merge, with UTN placed under the administration of Humphries and TSU. TSU became the surviving institution, and Humphries earned a national reputation for fighting for historically black colleges and universities and opportunities for minorities.
Humphries left TSU in 1985 to serve as president at FAMU. While at FAMU Humphries served on the Board of Directors of several Fortune 500 companies, Wal-mart Stores, Brinker International (the parent company of Chilli's and On The Border restaurants, and others.
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