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New APSU scholarship honors late Clarksville educator Lynda Conner

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When Lynda Wilkerson Conner attended Austin Peay State University in the early 1960s, she had a hard time finding a place to do her student teaching. Clarksville was a small, quiet town in those days, with a population of about 22,000 people and only a handful of public schools scattered around the area. In order to fulfill her student teaching requirement and graduate, Conner had to travel nearly an hour out of town to a rural school in Greenbriar, Tennessee.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When Lynda Wilkerson Conner attended Austin Peay State University in the early 1960s, she had a hard time finding a place to do her student teaching. Clarksville was a small, quiet town in those days, with a population of about 22,000 people and only a handful of public schools scattered around the area. In order to fulfill her student teaching requirement and graduate, Conner had to travel nearly an hour out of town to a rural school in Greenbriar, Tennessee.

What at first seemed to be an inconvenience turned into a career-defining experience for Conner.

“A teacher there took her under her wing to help her out, and Lynda never forgot it,” Lawrence Conner, her husband, said. “She loved student teaching. She always took student teachers into her classroom.”

For nearly 40 years, Conner was one of the first people APSU’s College of Education faculty contacted whenever they needed to place a student in a classroom. In that time, she mentored dozens of future teachers, passing along her motto, “To reach a child’s brain, you must first reach his heart.” Conner passed away in November 2014, but her legacy as a compassionate teacher will continue to thrive in this area, thanks to a new scholarship at APSU.

Earlier this month, Lawrence Conner returned to Austin Peay to endow the Lynda Conner Education Scholarship for Student Teaching to honor the woman he first met on a blind date at a VFW dance in the early 1960s. She was a Governette with the APSU marching band at the time, and he was a local farmer trying to earn his college degree. Before they went dancing that evening, she told her mother she wouldn’t marry a pig farmer. When she returned home, she informed her mother she’d met the man she was going to marry.

“I had a special Lynda,” Lawrence Conner said. His voice cracked at the mentioning of his late wife. “She devoted her life to teaching and to being a good wife and mother.”

The new scholarship will be awarded annually to an education student entering his or her student-teaching year. Family and friends hope the scholarship will grow in the coming years to offer more opportunities for deserving APSU students.

“I worked with Lynda at Burt when I first started teaching,” Dr. Carlette Hardin, dean of the APSU Martha Dickerson Eriksson College of Education, said. “She taught across the hall, and I depended on her my first two years to give me good advice and to keep me out of trouble. She was a wonderful mentor. I know that she helped hundreds of future teachers throughout her career and this scholarship will honor her spirit for a long time to come. We are very grateful to the Conner family for thinking of our students.”           

To support this scholarship, contact the University Advancement Office at advancement@apsu.edu or 931-221-7127, or send a financial donation for the scholarship to University Advancement, Box 4417, Clarksville, TN 37044.

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Photo cutline: Dr. Carlette Hardin, dean of the Martha Dickerson Eriksson College of Education, Lynda Conner (cousin with same name), APSU President Alisa White, Lawrence Conner, Larry Conner and Melynda Conner commemorate the creation of the Lynda Conner Education Scholarship for Student Teaching. (PHOTO by Taylor Slifko/APSU)