Clarksville, TN – In the summer of 1991, when Dr. Carmen Reagan was named dean of the Austin Peay State University (APSU) College of Business, she became the first woman in the University’s history to hold that position.
Over the next several years, her leadership helped transform that small program into the thriving college it is today, with much of her work focused on providing more opportunities to APSU’s female students.
“It has been my very fortunate and rather unique experience for both a daughter and granddaughter to attend the university and take classes in the programs I have helped teach and design,” Reagan said. “Both opportunities have provided me somewhat of a kaleidoscopic view of university life and have enriched my own development as an educator.”
‘Her leadership continues to ignite a powerful belief in the possible’
In the late 1960s, when few women taught business courses at the college level, Reagan began her long and impressive academic career. In 1988, she arrived at Austin Peay State University as an associate professor of marketing, and she quickly set to work making the college more accessible to female students. Ginna saw her mother’s influence first-hand, and when it came time to go to college, she enrolled at Austin Peay State University with a prestigious President’s Emerging Leaders Program (PELP) scholarship.
“Topping a long list of attributes, the courageousness mom demonstrates in all pursuits has been most inspirational and aspirational to me,” Ginna said. “Throughout her life and career, she has often journeyed paths not easily traveled. She blazed them with bold independence while fostering a collective responsibility to help others along the way. Though gentle in spirit, the strength of her vision and determination sets a brave example to take the action and risks needed to succeed. For me and many others, her leadership continues to ignite a powerful belief in the possible.”
Ginna, though originally interested in larger universities, was happy she decided to study in the program her mother oversaw. After graduating, she quickly became a prominent member of the Clarksville-Montgomery County business and civic communities, serving on multiple boards and working her way up to senior vice president of marketing for Fortera Credit Union. When it came time for her own daughter to go to college, Ginna watched Carlynn grapple with similar questions about where to go.
“Growing up with such a close association to APSU, Carlynn initially envisioned her college experience to be at a large school further from home,” Ginna said. “She struggled to find the right fit until she discovered Austin Peay offered her program of interest and an environment uniquely suited for her.”
‘Austin Peay has always seemed like family too’
Carlynn looked at other schools, but the more she considered Austin Peay State University, the more she understood the important legacy her family was building at the University.
“To me, Austin Peay has always seemed like family too,” she said. “As long as I can remember, it has played a huge role in our life and has been a constant presence with the involvement of my grandmother, mom, and other family members. Being a student really connected the bigger relationship though and I’m excited to continue that legacy.”
After graduating high school, she became the third generation of her family to find a home on the APSU campus. As a 21st century college student, Carlynn forged her own path across campus while also following in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps. Then, on May 6, 2022, her successful academic journey came to an end.
“I have always dreamed of the day that I would graduate college and it means, even more, to cross the stage of APSU knowing my grandmother and mom have walked it before me,” Carlynn said. “There is a great picture of them in the Dunn Center at my mom’s graduation. They both look so proud, and I am proud to now join her as an alum and as one of the many students my grandmother has impacted.”
Reagan officially retired from Austin Peay in 2011, and that November, the University launched the Reagan Giving Circle to honor the entrepreneurial spirit she bestowed upon APSU and the business community. The giving program ensures the success of future female business leaders, regardless of their major.
“We are extremely proud of the legacy this family has established through their work at Austin Peay and in our community,” APSU Vice President for University Advancement Kris Phillips said. “Dr. Reagan has made an impact on the lives of many female APSU students through the Reagan Giving Circle. Ginna Holleman has given back to her alma mater by supporting scholarships established through the Fortera Foundation, being a Govs Give Champion and by serving as chair of the University’s recent ‘What If’ Comprehensive Campaign. We cannot wait to see how Carlynn leaves her own unique mark as an Austin Peay alumna.”
Reagan and her family continue to believe in Austin Peay State University and all it has to offer its students. That’s why the family continues to find a home at the University.
“Through all of their experiences at APSU, I am confident that my daughter and granddaughter have been prepared for the future that beholds them,” she said.