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A successful alumnus and businessman and a pioneering female historian who taught at UT for thirty-two years will headline this semester’s African American Trailblazer Series.

Alumnus Don Frieson, executive vice president of operations for Sam’s Club, will speak on February 3. The talk, from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m., will be held in the College of Communication and Information Scripps Lab, room 402.

Historian Cynthia Fleming will close the series on March 3.

Presented by the Commission for Blacks and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the African American Trailblazer Series is dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of African Americans affiliated with UT who are trailblazers in their disciplines or within the fields of diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

“We’re pleased to welcome two illustrious members of the Volunteer community as speakers this semester,” said Rickey Hall, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “Their visits will help us mark other significant events on our calendar. Don’s talk will be part of our Black History Month celebration, while Cynthia’s visit will help us celebrate Women’s History Month.”

Frieson is responsible for the operations of more than 650 Sam’s Clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico. UT recently renamed the Frieson Black Cultural Center in honor of Frieson and his twin brother, Ron Frieson, to recognize a significant gift made to the center in tribute to their family. The Frieson Black Cultural Center celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. Don Frieson earned a bachelor’s degree in business operations management from UT in 1990.

Fleming became the first black woman to earn a PhD in history from Duke University, in 1977. Five years later, she joined UT as one of the first two black women faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences. Fleming retired in 2014 after thirty-two years of service.

Hall will emcee the series this semester. He recently received the Unity in the Community award from HoLa Hora Latina and is a current board member of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

This academic year’s series opened on November 5, 2015, with alumnus Michael Nettles, senior vice president at the Educational Testing Service and Edmund W. Gordon Chair of ETS’s Policy Evaluation and Research Center. A video archive of his presentation is available online.

The 2014–2015 series featured Theotis Robinson, the first African American undergraduate at UT; Rita Geier, a prominent lawyer who championed efforts to desegregate Tennessee’s higher education system; Mark Dean, inventor, professor, and holder of three of IBM’s original nine PC patents; and, Valisia LeKae, Grammy- and Tony-nominated actress and singer and spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.



Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,