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Dr. Freeman Reflects on Weekend College, Honors College, and Model Cities

Thomas F. Freeman

Sound | 1973, interview recorded 2012

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  •  Dr. Freeman discusses the Weekend College, a program developed to accommodate students who could not attend classes during the week.  
  •  Dr. Freeman on the Honors College  
  •  Dr. Freeman on Model Cities program  
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  •  M- Can you tell me a little bit about the Weekend College?  
  •  TFF- Yes. The Weekend College was voted the most unique innovation in education at the American Education Association in 1970, 71?  
  •  It was a university program designed to make education available to people when they could come!  
  •  So we had classes Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, and when it fully developed,  
  •  you could come to school Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and get a degree.  
  •  And persons who had to work could come here, and we grew so rapidly that soon we were about to take over the university in terms of numbers.  
  •  And students would come here, they come even now, and say, "I would have never gotten my degree if hadn't been for the weekend college."  
  •  And when the new administration comes, the Weekend College just faaaded off. 
  •  It was the idea of Dr. Sawyer . . .  
  •  M- Granville?  
  •  TFF- Granville, yes! Who had the vision of an urban university serving the peoples' needs!  
  •  And this was identified as one of the needs, and operation of the program was recognized by the American Association of Higher Education.  
  •  M- What was your role in it? Did you help get it off the ground? 
  •  TFF- (whispering) Dean. Dean. 
  •  M- Oh, you were the Dean? 
  •  TFF- (whispering) The Founder.  
  •  TFF- (whispering) The hard worker who started it and developed it.  
  •  Just as I did the Honors College. I was the Founding Dean of the Honors College.  
  •  I did the legwork to establish it.  
  •  M- Do you want to tell me a little bit more about the Honors College?  
  •  TFF- Yes. The Honors College is a program designed to provide an education for exceptional students,  
  •  for students with grade point averages of 3.75 or more, would be invited into a specialized program.  
  •  And that specialized program meant special classes, special seminars, and then opportunities for travel locally and abroad.  
  •  In fact, I took 10 students to China who were in the Honors College to give them the experience,  
  •  to give them the quality of education commensurate with their excellence and achievement.  
  •  Now, no one is responsible for the fact that he has brains, but he is responsible for what he does with the brains.  
  •  And we want to provide them with experience that will stimulate them!  
  •  So that they will blossom a little differently from the average student.  
  •  M- So I wanted you to tell me about your involvement with Model Cities. 
  •  TFF- Oh, yes indeed. Model Cities. There was a national program known as Model Cities, and what they were seeking to do was to build communities.  
  •  Housing was a part of it, but training in leadership roles,  
  •  and so they had a program here at TSU involving both youth and the citizens, and they had what is known as a Citizen's Council.  
  •  And they had representatives from the varying communities, and we would bring them here to expose them to many of the areas into which they might go.  
  •  We would bring specialists in, and they would lecture to them, then we would have small group meetings with these specialists.  
  •  In fact, we had the U.S. Secretary of Education to come down here.  
  •  In fact, he was a speaker at the commencement of the workers in Model Cities.  
  •  It was designed to create model cities for the nation, and through citizen participation, they would be given examples.  
  •  And I directed that for the length of time that we had it.  
  •  Then under that we had a group that we called "Unlimited Potential" that was the young people's group.  
  •  I sent young people to Washington for them to get a picture of the government and how it operates,  
  •  and they would come back and in their very neighborhoods, share the experience of having gone to Washington.  
  •  M- There are at least a handful, if not more, where you are going to other cities' model cities. 
  •  TFF- That's right, I went to have a knowledge of what is being done all over the country,  
  •  to share with them what we were doing, and to gain knowledge and information.  
  •  And when I went to these various places, I could sense the value of the one person to whom I talked would be to our group, so I'd have a basis for inviting him.  
  •  If I hadn't done that, I was . . . this was brand new to me!  
  •  I knew nothing about it, I was trying to find out something, and I discovered they didn't know anything either!  
  •  And what we did here became a model for others, I didn't realize that. 
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This video, produced by TAMI, is composed of excerpts from an informal interview with Dr. Freeman voiced over a home movie from his film collection. As Dr. Freeman gives the history of the founding and his participation in the Weekend College, the Honors College, and the Model Cities program at Texas Southern University, students and teachers are seen in the classroom for Weekend College classes. The interview was conducted by TAMI’s Madeline Fendley on September 10, 2012 at Dr. Freeman’s office at TSU.
Dr. Thomas F. Freeman was born in 1919 in Richmond, Virginia, where he also spent his childhood and attended college. Freeman left Virginia temporarily to serve a nine month contract at Houston's Texas Southern University in 1949. Many decades later, Dr. Freeman is still a professor and debate coach at TSU, on campus six days a week, and has helped multiple generations of young Texan African-American students find their voice and rise to new heights of scholarly achievement. A pillar of the Houston community, Dr. Freeman also has ministered at Mt. Horem Baptist Church for more than 65 years, still delivering sermons every Sunday; taught Religious Studies at Rice University for 20 years; helped found Houston's Model Cities program; founded and served as Dean of TSU's Weekend College; was the Founding Dean of TSU's Honors College; and over the course of his teaching career, taught and influenced many prominent African-Americans leaders, including Otis King, Barbara Jordan, and Martin Luther King, Jr.