Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fond Memories of Ginny Thigpen

There have been many people who have contributed to the success of Volunteer State Community College over the years. But some of those supporters go above and beyond. That was the case with Virginia “Ginny” Thigpen. She and her family have given so much to Vol State and in so many different ways. She passed away earlier this week. People here on campus, and across the community, paused to remember her life.

“She was just amazing,” said Karen Mitchell. “She loved education and everything about education. She was one of those rare human beings who you always loved to be around.”

“I remember when I came to work at the College, Ginny was so nice to me,” said Betty Gibson. “She made everyone around her feel special.  I got to know her and her husband Walter much better through the years.  They loved Vol State and made many contributions to the College through their talents and expertise.  Even after Ginny’s retirement, she has continued to support the College through her work with the Foundation.  Walter has been missed greatly and now we will miss Ginny so much. A lovely lady.”

Where does one start? Ginny was hired by Dr. Hal R. Ramer in 1972 as an instructor of English. She was a long-time faculty member, giving 36 years of service to Vol State, as an associate professor of English and Communication Department chair. She also started the Honors Program at the College. That dedication didn’t end when she retired from full-time work in 2000. She worked as a part-time adjunct instructor for another eight years. She continued to be active in the College Foundation, both as a generous donor, a board trustee and a tireless volunteer.
The people that knew her and loved her understood that she was involved in the community. But it seems that whenever you thought you knew her activities, you would find another stack of accomplishments. Ginny was involved in organizations and efforts across Sumner County. A few years ago former colleague and state Representative Mike McDonald honored her birthday with a resolution in the Tennessee Legislature. This covers just some of her involvement:

“WHEREAS, a dedicated civic leader, Ginny Thigpen has compiled an impressive record of community service, including being elected in 1978 as Sumner County’s first female County Commissioner, serving on the Sumner County Election Commission, and standing as President of the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus; and WHEREAS, she also served as the President of the Gallatin Arts Council; the President of the Board of the Cumberland Mental Health Association; a charter member of the Junior Service League of Gallatin; a member of the Sumner County Ad Hoc Economic Strategy Committee; a member of the Health, Education, and Housing Facilities Board, a member of the Community Chorus, PEO, and Delta Kappa Gamma; a member of the Board of Trustees of the Volunteer State Community College Foundation; and a member of the board of Sumner Academy; and WHEREAS, no stranger to awards and accolades, Ginny Thigpen was named as the 2000 Tennessee Educator of the Year and was honored, along with her late husband, at the unveiling of the Thigpen Library at Volunteer State Community College.”

Ginny was married to long-time librarian Walter Thigpen. He died in 1997. The Thigpen Library, named in his honor, will always be a testament to their love of the institution. Their portrait hangs in the main entrance to the first floor. The Thigpens will be watching over students for many years to come.

“During her many years of service as a member of the English faculty, Mrs. Thigpen dedicated herself to the college and to the success of her students,” said Dr. Faulkner. “Even after her retirement from the college she continued to be an ardent Vol State supporter and benefactor.  She was very active with the Volunteer State Foundation serving as a trustee and on committees supporting many of the foundation events.  It was my great pleasure to get to know her since arriving at Vol State and I know she will be greatly missed by us all.”

Ginny was a global traveler. She enjoyed exploring other cultures and meeting new people. She began that love as a student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and traveled to countries across the globe with her husband and then with friends and family. While her heart and home were in Sumner County, she was a true citizen of the world.

Do you have a story you would like to share about Ginny? Feel free to post in the comments section here to share with the rest of the campus and community.


  1. Virginia Thigpen was an amazing woman, teacher, philanthropist, and friend. The community has suffered a great loss from her passing.

  2. Mrs. Thigpen was my Speech professor the first year I was a student at VSCC. She was a mentor to me the entire time I was a student...even after I left VSCC. After I completed my degrees, I saw Mrs. Thigpen in the grocery store or at VSCC occasionally. She always knew my name, the names of my brother and sister, and my parents' names...this was YEARS later! I always enjoyed seeing Mrs. Thigpen. I will truly miss her.

  3. To me, Ginny was the face of Vol State. In the Fall of 1995, I was teaching full time at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville and living in Hendersonville. I was interested in teaching part time for Vol State to make some extra money. The day before classes started, Ginny met me in the parking lot of the apartment complex I lived in. She pulled up in her van waving a copy of the (then) COM 100 textbook. Jump forward a year to Fall of 1996, and here I am starting the next step of my career as a new Assistant Professor in Ginny's Communication Department. Over the next several years, Ginny became not just my colleague, but also my mentor and my friend. She taught me the true meaning of collegiality and how to be a good community college instructor. When she retired a few years later, my colleagues picked me to replace her as Chair of the department. My hope then was that I could do half as well as she had, as I thought that was setting the bar pretty high! To this day, I hope I served the department and our students in a way that honored her work and her love for the college.

    I also had the privledge of knowing Ginny outside of the college. We both had an interest in local politics, as Ginny had served on the county commission and the election commission and I was a new party activitst and later candidate for office. Her support and her wisdom were invaluable as I learned the political process and as I learned about Sumner County.

    It seemed everywhere I went in Sumner County, people knew, loved and respected Virginia Thigpen. Her legacy is one of service, of love of community, love of education and love of students. This place wont be the same without her. Her loss will be felt by many, and as I write this I feel the world is a lesser place without her in it.

    I miss you Ginny. Alot.

  4. Yep, I'm one of the many in the Humanities/Communication department who was hired by Ginny. Awesome boss, even more awesome person. My life is richer for having known & worked with her.

  5. I don't remember when I first met Ginny VSCC, but I know it must have been somewhere during the hiring process. She was just her usual unpretntious self offtering advise and encoragement. I spent many years with her in the Caudill Building as we both met our classes. Sometimes she offered advise about Sumner schools and ideas for my kids learning experience; other times she engaged me in a political discussion and there was the time she told me to pursue storytelling because she thought I had potential. She also gave me a flyer about a corn festival in Iowa that was taking submissions on stories and told me to submit. Three months later I received notice that I had won second place. She loved the arts; plays, musical, theater, art and I always knew that we shared these in common. She also knew East TN since she was raised in Knoxville. This resonated with me because Middle TN at the time didn't even seem to know that East Tennessee existed. It was comforting to me to know that we shared this world together. We spent many hours sharing memories and stories of the characters we knew. She was a great conversationalist and seemed to love getting to share thoughts with others. I don't thhink she ever met a stranger and had no reservations about starting conversations. While I never experienced her classroom, I often overheard her classroom discussions as she taught. These discussions were lively and challenging. Over my 31 years at VSCC, Ginny was a true mentor to me without ever knowing the impact she had on my career and growth as a person. Patsy Lawson, retired Associate Professor of Psychology.

  6. Early in my career here I came to know both Walter and Ginny well as I served on committees with both of them. Walter would invite faculty members over to the library during the activity period to take parts and read plays aloud. We did it for the sheer enjoyment of hamming it up. It was great fun. Although both of them were very accomplished individuals, they were also a lot of fun and always gave everyone a welcoming smile. God rest them both. It was a privilege to have known them.

  7. One of a kind! Ginny had an engaging, amazing spirit always making me (Wadsworth rep) feel welcome when I would drop by her office unexpectedly unannounced. Typically, my first campus visit (1975) would be Ginny Thigpen in English/Communication; Wayne Sullivan head of Math/Science and Bob Ruff in Social Sciences. LIke Bob and Wayne, Ginny was a guiding light, my campus Archangel, as I entered the strange new world of curriculums, pedagogy, and professors. She always had time for conversation on all kinds of things; no topic off limits for Ginny; however, where to sit was another matter; if you'd seen her office you'd say, Wow! How does she navigate all that paper? Yup, Ginny was one of my campus soul friends who loved students and her colleagues (75 roster) Janet, Dan, Al, Linda, Betty, Janice, and Louise, pre Mickey Hall days! (ha) The campus was a village and Ginny its foremost sage. She never skipped a beat, the last time I saw Ginny was the 2000 spring term her last full time gig. Peace be with you, Ginny ~

  8. Ginny was my first college English teacher. I knew she was special from the first class. I started VSCC in 1975 after getting out of the Army Even years later when I would see her in town somewhere (I work for Gallatin Police and VSCC security), she seemed to always be glad to see me, and still knew my name.She will be greatly missed. If all my teachers had been the same caliber as she was, I think I would have had a better GPA! Good-bye Ginny.