NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Burnece Walker Brunson’s popularity is almost as impressive as her age.
The 101-year-old Tennessee State University alumna, who was a member of the then-Tennessee A&I College cheerleading squad in 1934, was ABC World News Tonight’s “Person of the Week” on Oct. 21.
“She’s still cheering; proving to us all what it means to be forever young,” said David Muir, the anchor of ABC World News Tonight, and Person of the Week host.
Brunson was co-grand marshal at the 2016 TSU Homecoming earlier this month. During the festivities, a film crew shot footage for a PBS special on HBCUs, and Brunson was included.
When asked in a recent interview about her longevity, Brunson quipped: “I just keep on breathing.”
A native of Mount Pleasant, Tenn., Brunson moved to Chicago for a better education. There, she got her first taste of cheerleading while in high school.
“It fulfilled my desire to stay physically active since there were not many sporting activities for girls during those days,” she said.
After high school, Brunson decided to attend TSU (A&I College) in 1933. The following year she joined the cheerleading team.
In 1936, Brunson received her teaching certificate and eventually went back to Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Chicago Teacher’s College, and a master’s degree from the National College of Education in Evansville, Ill.
While in Chicago, Brunson was the first female hired there to serve as a lifeguard.
Brunson would later return to Tennessee and make Nashville her home; the place where she developed unforgettable collegiate memories.
Brunson shared some of those memories at this year’s TSU Homecoming, where she was honored at several events, including a scholarship that was established in her name.
“She’s a very educated, and devoted person,” said Kevin T. Davis, president of the TSUNAA Alumni Cheerleaders. “We just felt that we needed to honor her in that way.”
Brunson’s son, Boyce, said he’s sure many people looked forward to seeing his mother; and gleaning her wisdom.
“After you have a conversation with her, you realize she’s not just 101 years old, but she has 101 years of experience that is valuable even in today’s world.”
Brunson has tried to spread that wisdom in one of about a dozen books she’s written, including Food for Thought: Nourishment for the Soul, which gives tips on how to navigate life’s challenges.
When asked what advice she would give people today, especially youngsters, she smiled, then replied:
“Do the right thing, in every way.”