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.
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