Tommie Morton-Young to receive Vanderbilt Peabody Distinguished Alumna Award

Nashville activist, scholar and author Tommie Morton-Young will receive the Distinguished Alumna Award from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development during Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 14.

Morton-Young earned her master of arts in library science in 1955, becoming the first African American to graduate from George Peabody College for Teachers, as it was then named.

Morton-Young is a Nashville native who attended public schools and received her undergraduate degree cum laude from Tennessee State University. After receiving her master’s degree from Peabody, she went on to earn a Ph.D. from Duke University.

During her career, she has held many positions in government and higher education. She served as a researcher for the U.S. Navy Library in Washington, D.C., and did transliteration in Russian for the Library of Congress. She also taught at several universities, including Atlanta University, Tennessee State University, the University of Wisconsin, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University and North Carolina A&T State University. She retired from the University of North Carolina system as a full professor.

“Tommie Morton-Young made a signal contribution to the history of Peabody in 1955,” said Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Peabody. “But more importantly, she has used her education to strengthen the lives of children, families and communities, especially those which too often are marginalized.”

“I am genuinely honored to be named as the Distinguished Peabody Alumna for 2010,” said Morton-Young. “The college has a distinguished history and reputation, and as the first African American to graduate from the institution many years ago, I am pleased to name it among my alma maters.”

Morton-Young will deliver graduation remarks as part of Peabody’s Diploma Awards Ceremony for students receiving master’s or doctor of education degrees.

As a librarian and professor of education, Morton-Young pursued a variety of innovative concepts and passions. Her “toybrary” concept was hailed in the library and child development professions. At North Carolina Central University she organized a learning laboratory that demonstrated her theories on using toys to teach.

While at North Carolina A&T, she received grants that allowed her to develop expertise in genealogy, which she has shared widely in local communities with social science teachers and citizens. She organized the North Carolina Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society as well as the Tennessee African American Genealogical and Historical Society.

As a community activist, Morton-Young has advocated for women, minorities and the disadvantaged. She is a former chairperson of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In that capacity she initiated hearings on pay equity for women and minorities, school placement of students, and contributed to a U.S. Department of Labor Study on migrant workers. In Tennessee, she has been active in numerous civic organizations as well as in the Tennessee Judicial Council and the Davidson County Democratic Party.

The author of 10 books on a variety of subjects, Morton-Young currently writes, serves as a consultant, and owns and operates Authentic Tours—Teaching through Tourism.

She has been recognized with many honors and awards including a 2006 Athena Award from Nashville’s CABLE organization, which connects local women professionals with career opportunities; a Distinguished Alumna Award from Tennessee State University; the Tennessee Achievement Award by Gov. Don Sundquist; and several awards from the NAACP. She has served on numerous boards and commissions.

Morton-Young is a widow, mother to one daughter and grandmother of two grandchildren.

Peabody College was recently named the No. 1 graduate school of education in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for the second consecutive year. For more information about the college, visit .

Release prepared by Kurt Brobeck.

Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS