Wednesday, February 24, 2010

THINK BIG: Judy Gentry

Black History Month at Tennessee State University

THINK BIG: Judy Fenton Gentry

*Tennessee State University celebrates Black History Month by recognizing individuals or organizations that have made noteworthy contributions to the University’s history, and are taking the “Think Big, TSU BIG!” approach to their areas of study and expertise while impacting the campus community and beyond.

Life is a dance. Just ask Tennessee State University dance instructor Judy Fenton Gentry, who has devoted more than 30 years to teaching students the art of dance in the Department of Human Performance & Sport Sciences.

Best known for choreographing and naming the TSU Aristocrat of Bands’ Sophisticated Ladies, Gentry continues to serve as the trailblazing force behind the entertaining dance ensemble seen dazzling crowds with intricate footwork year after year. In the spirit of Duke Ellington’s Broadway production, “Sophisticated Ladies,” Gentry lends her expertise to keep her ladies’ classic style fresh and hip with a twist of jazz. 

But it’s not all about the moves for Gentry, who studied with dance greats like Chuck Davis and Mable Love. It’s about giving students the techniques that will keep them on their toes in the classroom and in their careers to come: “I hold my dance students to a standard of excellence. They must be able to compete and put their all into everything they do,” said Gentry, whose two daughters also danced with the Sophisticated Ladies while attending TSU.  

An all-star instructor, Gentry is recognized on the TSU College of Education Wall of Fame and is heralded as a Contemporary Black History Makers Award recipient. As a mentor to students and, sometimes, a mother, Gentry is proud to see her influence live through the students she’s taught and touched.

“I have young ladies who have danced with me and years later their daughters come to dance with me too. It feels great to know I have impacted them in some way,” Gentry said.  

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