APSU honoring Dr. Jill Eichhorn's legacy with scholarship fundraiser Oct. 19
By: Ethan Steinquest September 14, 2023
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - For over 20 years, the late Dr. Jill Eichhorn left a lasting impact on Austin Peay State University (APSU) and Clarksville as a community leader, activist and beloved professor.
To continue her legacy of service, APSU’s Department of Languages and Literature will host a scholarship fundraiser from 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at F&M Bank’s Franklin Room, to benefit students in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. The evening will include food, music and a silent auction.
“Inside and outside the classroom, [Dr. Eichhorn’s] goal was to help students live authentically,” said Dr. Beatrix Brockman, chair of APSU’s Department of Languages and Literature. “Whatever it takes, you are entitled to live the life that makes you happy, and I think that was her biggest legacy.”
‘Caring and selfless’ - Dr. Eichhorn’s lasting impact
Eichhorn began working as an assistant professor in the Department of Languages and Literature in 1997, teaching courses on composition and women writers. She also coordinated APSU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program for 20 years and was awarded the APSU Distinguished Community Service Award in 2019.
“[Dr. Eichhorn] was a very caring and selfless person,” said Dr. Paula White, the coordinator of APSU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program. “For members of underrepresented groups, including gender and sexual minorities, she was always looking for ways to make the campus community better … [and] if she was going to make an impact, it was going to be something to make a difference for students, colleagues and the community.”
In addition to her work in the classroom, Eichhorn chartered APSU’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) and sponsored the University’s participation in the Clothesline Project. The event empowers students to share stories of interpersonal violence - including physical, verbal and sexual abuse - through T-shirt displays three times a year.
Eichhorn also organized annual student productions of “The Vagina Monologues,” which raised more than $20,000 for Clarksville’s Sexual Assault Center, the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and Clarksville Area Urban Ministries’ SafeHouse program.
More recently, Eichhorn helped establish the annual Betty Joe Wallace Memorial Lecture, co-sponsored by APSU’s Department of History and Philosophy and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
“Betty Joe Wallace was a former faculty member at Austin Peay who taught African American history and women’s history for about 30 years on our campus,” White said. “She was one of the first people to teach those courses, which led to her founding the African American Studies Program and Women’s and Gender Studies Program.”
The Betty Joe Wallace Memorial Lecture traditionally takes place in March during Women’s Empowerment Month and has covered various civic issues, from voting rights to community engagement.
“We bring a speaker on campus that is making an impact in their community, whether that’s someone who’s engaged with social justice activism or civil rights,” White said. “And it’s not just diversity issues, but also accessibility and the working class. It’s been a big part of the minor and Jill’s legacy to keep up with that.”
Brockman said raising scholarship funds will help students pay for their tuition and books, which creates more opportunities for them to attend events like the Betty Joe Wallace Memorial Lecture as they pursue an education in women’s and gender studies.
“This program has been so impactful,” she said. “Before I became a department chair, I was teaching Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, which [Dr. Eichhorn] encouraged me to do. In those classes, I have seen what this subject does for students … I’ve seen some of the greatest light bulb moments in that class when we look at language and see how things are framed from a predominantly male perspective.”
More about the Jill Eichhorn scholarship fundraiser
Brockman said community members should be on the lookout for a formal invitation to the scholarship fundraiser and that tickets will cost $75. Attendees can expect hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, live music from Red River Breeze and several silent auction items.
“All proceeds go to the scholarship donations,” Brockman said, noting that the department must raise at least $25,000 to establish the scholarship. “The top [auction] item will be a week at a beach house in Florida.”
The auction will feature a week’s stay in a Florida beach house, original art by some of the area’s finest artists, handmade artisan jewelry, themed gift baskets and more.
Community members unable to attend the event can also donate to the scholarship fund through APSU’s website. White said any assistance for students in the Women’s and Gender Studies program will leave a significant impact and carry on Eichhorn’s legacy.
“[Dr. Eichhorn] was an incredible mentor,” White said. “She showed me the importance of not just making an academic impact on students but building service line relationships that will hopefully extend past their college years. Our goal is to help these students develop into better global citizens, to leave an impact on the world, to be able to communicate, build relationships and become brave leaders in their communities.”