It was quite appropriate that Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour spoke at Middle Tennessee State University on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Armour, an MTSU alumna (class of ’97), is the United States’ first African-American female combat pilot. She shared a lively and entertaining personal message with nearly 200 attendees for the RutherfordCABLE and MTSU women’s networking breakfast sponsored by Nissan of Murfreesboro and the Manor at Twin Oaks.
Armour, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, mentioned that when she “heard that the Pentagon had been struck (on Sept. 11, 2001), in that moment, I knew my life would change.”
For the MTSU talk, which was held in the James Union Building’s Tennessee Room, Armour said she “felt connected. This is a great community, and it felt great to be home again.”
Armour said she tried to focus on the “breakthrough mentality” in her address.
“Once you have the mentality, you can create breakthroughs in all areas of life,” Armour said after signing numerous copies of her book, Zero to Breakthrough, following her speech.
Armour is not retired from the U.S. Marine Corps; she said she “transitioned out to follow my dream and help people achieve their goals and dreams.”
U.S. Army Col. Jeff Davidson, a fellow MTSU alumnus (’85), armor officer and the inspector general in Tennessee, was one of the invited guests, along with Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg and Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess.
“She’s absolutely right on,” said Davidson, an Eagleville, Tenn., resident, whose daughter, Erin, is a junior theatre major at MTSU. “I loved it (Armour’s address). Every soldier has a story like that. It’s all about the attitude you take. Attitude determines altitude.”
Cindy Smith of Nashville and Marriam Nasoori of Murfreesboro were among the many attendees who were impressed by Armour’s talk.
“I liked how she was involved with the crowd,” said Nasoori, a Siegel High School senior. She was very inspiring.” Nasoori added that she plans to invite Armour to speak to Siegel’s Junior ROTC group.
“This is what young people need to see,” said Smith, an independent executive consultant in network marketing. “Academics are great, but life skills and life coaching — there need to be classes like this.”
Liz McPhee, MTSU first lady and wife of President Sidney A. McPhee, also attended the special event. Armour later spoke to Liz McPhee’s third-grade class at Discovery School on Greenland Drive.
Dr. Gloria Bonner, assistant to the president, helped coordinate Armour’s MTSU appearance.
“We’re thrilled to have her come back to MTSU,” Bonner said. “She’s just so impressed with the impact MTSU had on her life. She talked about how the institution gave her access and exposure, which influenced decisions for her future.”
Armour also spent a few special moments with Robbie Snapp, a financial aid assistant director.
“She was one of my students in financial aid,” Snapp said. “She was one of my ‘letters.’” When Armour attended MTSU from 1991 until ’97, Snapp handled Armour’s financial-aid transactions and they became friends. Snapp assists students whose last names begin with “A” or “B,” along with student-athletes.
Armour, whose website is www.vernicearmour.com, has appeared on “The Oprah Show,” CNN, “Tavis Smiley” on PBS and other media outlets. Her office is located in Stafford, Va.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)