AJC Sepia HBCU of the Week: For one family, Huston-Tillotson University is more than a school, it is home

Credit: Photos courtesy Tisha L. Christopher

Credit: Photos courtesy Tisha L. Christopher

AJC Sepia HBCU of the Week is an occasional series that looks at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Next Week: Dillard University

Tisha L. Christopher is a 1992 graduate of Huston-Tillotson University living in Austin, where she works as  quality assurance administrator for the Department of Aging and Disability Services, Consumer Rights and Services Division.  She is chaplain for the local Austin Alumni Chapter and for the Huston-Tillotson International Alumni Association. Her father, whom she followed to Huston-Tillotson, is the membership chair of Austin alumni chapter.

“From her eastern window shining, comes the promise of the day....”

Those words, that begin our school song, are etched in my mind and heart.

But I felt them differently recently, because I experienced Deja vu.

I was on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University, the oldest institution of higher learning in Austin, Texas, having breakfast with my daughter, Imani Christopher.

It was before she went off to class and just like my father had done with me too many times to count.

The significance of the moment took my breath away and caused tears to fill my eyes.

She is my promise of the day. My Huston-Tillotson legacy, as I am my mother and father's.

This college is part of my family!

That's how we all feel once we become Rams. There is just something about an HBCU that is unlike any other learning environment.

But my experience is different. If it had not been for Huston-Tillotson College, as it was known then, I probably wouldn’t be here.

You see, my parents met on campus in 1960.

My daddy, Reginald Christopher, was a senior math major and SGA president. Momma, Peggy Harvey, was a freshman sociology major from Austin.

Both were the first in their respective families to graduate high school, as well as earn graduate and post graduate degrees.

Daddy used to tease Momma because she would not stay on campus and socialize, but would run home after her last class each day.

They would formally meet after she graduated, and six months later they were married.

Daddy went on to get his doctorate of dental surgery at Meharry Medical School and serve in the Air Force, before moving us back to Austin in 1984.

But in addition to my parents, my mother's middle brother, Carl Harvey Sr.; my father's brother, Charles Christopher Sr.; and one of his sisters, Dorothy “Dot” Christopher, all matriculated and graduated from our beloved alma mater.

The connection runs still deeper as my dad's brother married Marjon, the only daughter of the third and longest serving president of the college, John Q.T King Sr.

Dr. King’s beloved wife Marcet taught music at the school and his youngest son Stuart also attended and graduated from HT.

The second generation to attend consisted of me, (I was a cheerleader); my cousins Kristin “Krissy” Foster, who sang in the choir; and Rodney Christopher, who played on the basketball team.

Each of us joined the ranks of not only the HT International Alumni Association, but we also joined our respective black Greek letter organizations while on campus.

Momma and I are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha; Uncle Carl and Uncle Stuart are Alphas; Daddy and Cousin Rodney are Sigmas; Aunt Dot and Cousin Krissy are Deltas; and Uncle Charles (who also attended Meharry), is the lone Omega in the bunch.

It's hard to put into words just what this university means to me and to our family.

So many of us have the careers and successes we have because of the invaluable lessons we learned here.

Our lives have been made that much richer from the friendships and relationships that began and were nurtured on her hallowed grounds.

We come back every year for homecoming and reunion weekend whether or not we know anyone personally that is graduating.

We call all of them ours because it is indeed a family that we became a part of when we enrolled.

And so, as I watched Imani climb the same hill so many of us have climbed that morning on her way to Jackson-Moody for class, I relished in the thought -- I didn't just send my daughter off to college, I sent her home.