Former Miss New Jersey and Miss Glamour runner-up Darlene Mullins, 72, would on May 6, 2017, be among more than 800 graduates from various disciplines at the undergraduate spring commencement in the William Jasper Hale Stadium on TSU’s main campus. She began her journey to earn a college degree in Tennessee State University, but just as it started, it was cut short when she met and fell in love with a fellow student, John Mullins.
They got married and family got in the way of her education. She has been married for 54 years now.
Speaking to TSU’s Alumni Life, a campus magazine, in 2014, Darlene said “I thought he was the finest thing walking on the campus.”
She said 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.
“I came to TSU because I ran track. I wanted to go to the 1964 Olympics. Wilma Rudolph was my idol and I was on my way. I get to TSU and meet the great coach (Ed) Temple, but we bumped heads because I had to make a choice between his track team or John Mullins,” Darlene said.
Darlene began a long and successful career in retail and cosmetology after family care got less.
John also worked for several corporate and government agencies before starting his company Lions Group, Inc., a marketing and advertising agency in Dallas, Texas.
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. I am really looking forward to this. I am very excited and just overjoyed to see this day. My graduation from college, for me, confirms that I completed what I started more than 50 years ago. I am happy,” Darlene said.
Photo & Story: TSU Newsroom