Grambling State University has set a new record. But this time it’s not because of its storied football team. It’s because of the family that has now been deemed Guinness Book of Records worthy for most graduates of a single university.
The Wayne Family of Marion, Louisiana was notified last month that their bid had been accepted. Out of the 86 family members that attended Grambling State University, the HBCU best known for the legacy of Eddie Robinson, who coached a winning football team at the school for 56 years, 40 graduates were accepted.
Spanning the years between 1956 through 2010, Wayne family members graduated with degrees in everything from education, criminal justice, computer science, electrical engineering, business, music education and English literature. Hattie Wayne, a 1971 graduate of Grambling, told the Dallasnews.com that 86 of her family members attended Grambling and 52 graduated.
Due to some missing and/or lost documentation, Guinness accepted 40 Wayne family graduates, handily beating out the Alabama family that set a previous record with 15 family graduates of the same college or university.
“I’m personally excited not just for our family but for our little town of Marion, for the state of Louisiana, for Grambling and for all historically black colleges and universities,” Hattie Wayne, a public relations executive in Dallas, who collected the required birth, school and graduation records, told the Dallasnews.com.
Once the records were gathered, Grambling State University had to verify them and then Guinness did an extensive verification process. The quest for the Guinness began after Hattie Wayne attended an alumni event in Dallas and realized her family graduates far outweighed those of other alumni.
All of the graduates descend from Wayne family members Lillie Wayne Talton, Matilda Wayne McElroy, Ida Wayne Rivers, John Wayne Sr, King Wayne, Thomas Wayne Sr, Sandy Wayne, Sam Wayne, Moses Wayne and Willie Wayne.
“For the Wayne family, Grambling State University has been our “village.” Education has always been of importance. We believe our efforts of giving back will leave a legacy and will inspire others,” Hattie Wayne says.
And the accomplishments of the Wayne family don’t stop there. Descendants include actress Bre’ly Evans who appeared in Sparkle and on Being Mary Jane; Indianapolis Colts All-Pro wide receiver Reggie Wayne, whose father Ralph Wayne is a Grambling graduate who played for Eddie Robinson; retired Air Force Lt. Col Donald Tatum, who graduated from Louisiana Tech but whose five children are all Grambling graduates; Dr. Micean Johnikin, a pediatric cardiologist who broke family tradition as a Tuskeegee grad who went on the Stanford University; and Dr. Brian Freelon, a Research Physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among many other successful, groundbreaking Wayne family members and descendants.
Grambling State University has had its struggles in recent years but the Wayne family still believes in the school. They plan to create an endowment there under the family name.
“Attending school and going to school has been part of our culture and our upbringing, passed down to us from generation to generation… To find out now that many of our relatives (attended Grambling), that our footprint is embedded at that university — it’s exciting,” Tatum told USAToday.com.
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