In the heart of Houston’s 3rd Ward, a native Houstonian, Eleanor Thomas, found her home at Texas Southern University. Her journey is one of perseverance, tenacity, and a deep connection to her roots.
Eleanor’s story begins at Jack Yates High School, where she graduated in May 1971 as a proud clarinet player in the Jack Yates band—despite having a band scholarship to a University in Dallas, family ties and pressure from her parents kept her close to home. Eleanor’s choice to join TSU was fueled by the desire to be part of a historically black college in the neighborhood she grew up in, surrounded by fellow Yates graduates.
Eleanor first started her journey at TSU in 1971. Initially majoring in psychology, Eleanor’s path took unexpected turns. Marriage, family, and responsibilities led her away from TSU multiple times, but she always found her way back.
After having to leave initially in 1973, Eleanor’s determination led her to pursue Business when she returned to Texas Southern for a second go-round in 1995. Her second time enrolling at TSU came with another significant challenge of caring for her special needs child and ailing mother. In 1996, Eleanor had to leave TSU again to become a full-time caregiver.
Between her stints at Texas Southern, Eleanor’s professional journey was as remarkable as her academic one. Eleanor progressed from a seasonal gift wrapper to managing operations at two major department stores. At her daughter’s advice, Eleanor also had a career with the state, overseeing various state-funded programs. Through it all, she navigated diverse roles with grace. All the while, her five children, two great-grandchildren, and five grandchildren supported and motivated her to complete her education.
Returning for the third and final time in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, Eleanor discovered the transdisciplinary studies program, leading her to complete her Bachelor of Science in Business Operations and Services a semester early. Her tenacity was evident, overcoming technology hurdles and health scares with an unwavering spirit.
Reflecting on her TSU experience, Eleanor cherishes memories of working in accounting groups, connecting across generations. Her advice to non-traditional students is simple yet powerful: “DO. NOT. STOP!!! Never stop, never ever give up.”
Graduation day brought a sense of awe, initially hesitating to walk but finding inspiration in younger students to participate. Since her classmates encouraged her to walk, Eleanor plans on coming back to the Spring 2024 graduation to cheer on those who inspired her to continue.
As she looks forward, Eleanor plans to use her degree to contribute meaningfully, considering part-time or volunteer work in hospital business departments or running gift shops. She hopes her credentials shield her from ageism, aiming to remain passionate about her work.
Reflecting on her upbringing, with her parents as her guiding light, Eleanor advises her younger self to listen to her heart, be prepared, and appreciate the guidance of her parents. Looking back, Eleanor wishes she had listened more to her parents but acknowledges the freedom-seeking spirit that led her to where she is today.
Eleanor’s journey embodies the spirit of determination, resilience, and the belief that it’s never too late to pursue one’s dreams. As she steps into the next chapter, Eleanor Thomas stands as a testament to the enduring power of education and the strength that comes from within.