BOWIE – A grief-stricken Bowie State University community paid tribute to one of its own last Monday with a candlelight vigil in memory of a beloved administrator. Dr. Freddie Vaughns, assistant vice president of academic affairs, died of a heart attack on July 4. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. […]
BOWIE – A grief-stricken Bowie State University community paid tribute to one of its own last Monday with a candlelight vigil in memory of a beloved administrator.
Dr. Freddie Vaughns, assistant vice president of academic affairs, died of a heart attack on July 4.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. organized the vigil in the campus administration building.
Shawn Etape, event organizer and member of Kappa Alpha Psi, said the building held over 100 students, alumni and faculty members who shared stories about Vaughns.
“It almost brought tears to my eyes to see the BSU community come together and celebrate Dr. Vaughns life. Vaughns was a counselor, teacher, and motivator to those who knew him well. Everybody shared personal stories about his opinionated personality and remember him as being larger-than-life.”
Earlier this year, the White House honored Vaughns as a Historically Black College or University Champion of Change, along with 10 other HBCU administrators and faculty.
Vaughn’s wife, nephews, nieces, father-in-law and brother-in-law attended the vigil and shared uplifting words with the students.
Vaughns’ wife spoke to the crowd, encouraging students to continue the work her husband left behind. “She told us to work hard, get an education and rise to the occasion,” Etape said. She also said that the love he had for BSU is the same love he brought home every day from work.
Vaughns worked closely with the provost on student concerns and was the head of the Bulldog Academy, a summer program for incoming freshmen designed to ease their transition into college and give them opportunities to earn academic credits.
President Mickey L. Burnim said Vaughns was a beloved administrator and faculty member who will be deeply missed. “He worked tirelessly to promote student success and graduation.”
He was described by many of the students and faculty as honest, bold, loud and encouraging. “He had a booming voice that stood out among a crowd. He walked hard and purposeful like he was always on a mission,” said Shirelle Briscoe, communications professor and faculty member of the year at Bowie State University.
She had known Vaughns as great friend since he first began working at the university. “Since the time I met him, he has been a big brother to me and an amazing supervisor. He was one of the biggest student advocates that I know, and his role was to fight for them by any means necessary.”
Briscoe spoke with Vaughns in his office just a week prior to his passing. She said he always assisted her when her students were at risk of dropping out of college. “He would help the students receive funding and other necessary resources to remain in school full time,” Briscoe said.
One of those students, Cameron Knox, is a three-time Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association men’s player of the year and current student at Bowie State University. Knox, a senior forward from Baltimore, leads the conference in points, 461, and ranks in the top five in field goals, three pointers, steals and points per game.
“Dr. Vaughns was a positive guy who pushed me as a student and basketball player. I had a rough time when I first came to this university because I was at risk of being put out of school. He took my problem on as his own and helped me resolve the issue with ease. Every time I saw Dr. Vaughns, he reminded me that it doesn’t matter how many points I score; what matters is that I graduate from college,” Knox said.
Like other students, Knox was shocked to hear about Vaughns’ passing and is still in disbelief.
The campus has been quiet since the recent news, but students and faculty are constantly sending their love and support to Vaughns’ family.
On social media, students and alumni shared posts about how much Vaughns will be missed sitting at his usual table in the cafeteria around noon and walking around campus, chatting with students.
“Other students can tell you he’s the reason they stayed in school and graduated because he goes above and beyond for everyone, not just me,” said Knox. He saidVaughns will forever be remembered for his honesty, mentorship and “coaching.”
Vaughns also stood as the university’s faculty athletic representative and served on numerous committees for the CIAA and the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
Bryan Wilson, men’s basketball assistant coach, said Vaughns made a huge impact on him personally because of his support for the athletic department. “My favorite memory of Dr. Vaughns takes me back to when we won our first championship and he came on the court to congratulate us. It was great to see that kind of support from the school administration,” Wilson said.
Darrell Brooks, men’s basketball head coach, said the students on campus are Dr. Vaughns’ legacy.
“No one can rebuild the legacy that Vaughns left at BSU. He was intelligent, helpful and had a big heart. People like him are the reason why you go to an HBCU in the first place. He made you laugh until you cried, but he also supported you and pushed you to be at the next level,” said Brooks. The basketball team is dedicating this upcoming basketball season to Dr. Vaughns.
According to most BSU students, Vaughns was like a father, and when he smiled it gave many people hope.
“At graduation Dr. Vaughns handed me my diploma and told me not to forget where I came from. There will never be another Dr. Vaughns,” BSU alumna Ali Djim said.