Sparta grandfather's college sweater connects student's family history to Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech graduate student Daphne Jordan is pictured with the 1950s-era Tech sweater originally belonging to her late grandfather, Terrell Vaughn, of Sparta.
Tennessee Tech graduate student Daphne Jordan is pictured with the 1950s-era Tech sweater originally belonging to her late grandfather, Terrell Vaughn, of Sparta.

Sometimes family legacy and university legacy become intertwined, like the knit of a familiar sweater.

In fact, finding her grandfather’s Tennessee Tech University sweater from the mid-20th century is what made Daphne Jordan realize that philosophy. A graduate student in clinical mental health counseling, Jordan says her family’s close ties to Tech are part of why she chose the university.

“I knew from family history that my grandfather and his brother were here at the same time, and I found proof in the yearbook archive. My grandfather later went into the military to continue his college education with the G.I. Bill,” she said.

After his passing in 2019, Jordan found a faded gold sweater with a purple-outlined ‘T’ emblazoned on the front of it – a sweater from his days as a Tech student.

“He was always proud of his connection to and degree from Tech,” she said.

She understands the feeling, she said, because when Jordan decided to enroll at Tech, she felt supported from the beginning of her college career.

“As a non-traditional single mom, I could have gotten a degree from any number of programs online, but I understood the value of being educated in an in-person, community environment – and the College of Education Student Success Center had my back from day one,” she said.

Jordan’s grandfather, Terrell Vaughn, was a Sparta native and earned his degree from Tech in 1958. He studied animal husbandry and continued to maintain close ties to the university after taking over the work on his family farm in White County, where the family still raises grass-fed beef cattle.

Terrell Vaughn
Terrell Vaughn

When he discovered a hybrid strain of Bermuda grass on his farm, her grandfather worked closely with another university for classification – and that’s how the Vaughn’s No. 1 Bermuda grass strain came to be. Vaughn maintained a longtime collaboration with now retired Tech agriculture professor Bruce Green as a way of continuing his involvement at his home university.

Jordan said, after finding Vaughn’s old Tech sweater, she first thought about trying to clean it and put it away in a drawer to preserve it.

“It was so aged, I was concerned the knit wouldn’t hold up to being washed or dry cleaned, so I decided instead to look for an extra-large shadow box to put it in and preserve it just as it is,” she continued.

Now a graduate assistant in the Student Success Center in the T.J. Farr building on campus, Jordan brought the shadow box with the sweater in it with her. Today it is displayed in the center’s lobby, bustling with students, faculty and administrators day in and day out.

“It’s a piece of history. My family history is a part of Tech history, too. It just feels right to have it displayed where others can enjoy it,” she said.

The sweater can be found in the College of Education’s Student Success Center, located in room 202 of the T.J. Farr Building on campus.


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