Darrell Freeman, entrepreneur and a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, gave an inspiring presentation to the faculty and staff of Chattanooga State this week during Convocation.
“What you do is SO IMPORTANT!” he told the faculty. “You have the opportunity to do more than teach, you can inspire.”
The first in his family to attend college, the Kirkman alum and former Chattanooga State student told the story of a professor who taught during his fourth year at MTSU and challenged him to do better. The professor told Freeman “you can do better.” The professor challenged Freeman’s status quo, challenged his thought processes, and challenged his work ethic, and then made an investment of time with Freeman to show him how to be a better student. Freeman went on to earn a master’s degree with a 4.0 grade point average.
“The opportunity before you,” Freeman told the assembled educators, “is to pour as much into these students as you possibly can. All students have the seeds of success within them. You can positively influence their lives, their livelihoods, and their futures. Motivate them to live up to their potential.”
“Moreover,” said Freeman to a rapt audience, “you must hold yourself accountable. Work hard, for there is no substitute for hard work. Constantly innovate. Meet students where THEY are. Understand that those who are barely hanging on are the ones who need you the most.” He added, “When you receive an opportunity, you are accountable for making the most of it. You have that responsibility; do not take that lightly.”
“What’s possible,” asked Freeman? “I received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from MTSU. I founded Zycron, an international IT services firm. I co-founded Reliant Bank. I co-founded Pinnacle Construction Partners. And I’ve become a philanthropist. That’s what at stake here.”
As he concluded his remarks, the audience leapt to their feet with a thunderous standing ovation.