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Tonya Harris0

Posted on October 6th, 2016 in Uncategorized

Mrs. Tonya Harris

Mrs. Tonya Harris

To understand the historical significance of Tonya Harris’ place in FSU history, one must understand the time in which her history was forged. It was the late 1960’s and, although the FSU student body was integrated, historically white campuses in the deep south had not yet become a welcoming place for people of color.  FSU was among the progressive campuses but even here we have an integration statue to underscore the significance of brave individuals who first walked the walk of integration.

It is within this framework that Tonya Harris in 1968 became the first black faculty member hired at Florida State University. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University in 1964, then a Master of Nursing from University of Washington in 1968, and prior to her arrival on the FSU faculty, Harris worked as a nurse for the FAMU Hospital and the Leon County Health Department. Originally hired as an instructor in the FSU College of Nursing, she was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1972, where she taught until retirement in 2003.

During her teaching career, Harris also served in the United States Army, earning the rank of Major. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she served as a member of a MASH unit that provided health services to the troops on the front-line, and received two Commendation Medals for meritorious service in the Army.

In retirement, Harris has maintained an active presence in the life of FSU, as a docent at the FSU President’s Home and also with the Association of Retired Faculty, where she served as president in 2012-2013.

For service to her country and in recognition of the trail-blazing path she walked for others to follow, the FSU Alumni Association is proud to welcome Tonya Harris into its Circle of Gold.

(Courtesy FSU Alumni Association)