always told her children to finish what they started. On May 6, the 72-year-old grandmother of four will do just that when she receives her Degree
from Tennessee State University after 55 years.
In 1962, former Miss New Jersey and Miss Glamour Runner up Darlene began her journey to earn a college degree in Tennessee State University, but just as it started, it was cut short.
She met fellow student John Mullins, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, who she described as dashing, handsome and “everything to behold,” and they fell in love.
“Love got in the way,” said Mullins, who celebrates 54 years of marriage in August.
After courting for a while, they got married a short time later. She said John completed his degree program in 1964 and she took on the role of caring for their home and raising a family.
Darlene began a long and successful career in retail and cosmetology after family care got less. John and Darlene have been supportive of each other over the years and have lived in 6 states over the course of their marriage.
Darlene said she never forgot about her academic aspiration. “Something kept nagging at me. I always told my children to make sure they finish what they started and I kind of felt it was time to live up to my own advice,” she said.
“John did not hesitate for one bit; he said ‘let’s go,’” she said. The couple moved back to Nashville to allow Darlene to return to TSU and pursue a degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2013.
“My goal was to come back and finish at Tennessee State. I didn’t know at the time how long it was going to take, I just knew I had to do it,” she said. At times, she took as many as 20 credit hours a semester, and maintained top grades.
With the 25 credits she had accumulated before dropping out in 1963, Darlene is completing her college work in four years. A member of three honor societies, she is graduating summa cum laude. On May 6, Darlene will be among more than 800 graduates.