Tamron Hall was recently appointed as the newest member of the Board of Trustees following a unanimous vote on Tuesday. In a phone interview with Temple student media, Ms. Hall was candid about what it means to come back to Temple in her new role, and how being “Temple Made” has helped her carve out a successful media career.
CS: When were you approached by Temple to fill the vacant board seat and what was your initial reaction?
TH: Wow. I couldn’t believe to be honest with you. It’s not even something I had thought about. Perhaps there was part of me, if I can be honest with you I had never thought it would be possible. It’s such a prestigious, such an important position. One that I certainly believe I can handle. You get in the grind of your day, and you become focused on your career, and I am focused on my shows and what I do. And while I am a loyal alum I love the university and the city, it just did not occur to me that this would be something that would be part of my journey. I am blown away, absolutely blown away.
I believe it was earlier in the summer [when I was approached], but it was earlier this year, and the discussion was very informal, casual, but you felt the gravitas of this opportunity, just from the luncheon. And it was really an opportunity for the trustees to get to know me and to get to know my journey and for me to share why Temple is such an important university and why it was so important for me to go to that university. It was life changing [to go to Temple]. It exposed me to a world I didn’t know, being from a small town. We don’t have public transportation in Dallas or Fort Worth; my first subway ride was from Allegheny to Cecil B Moore. And it wasn’t about taking “my first train ride,” but that it exposed me to a life and a struggle that is very real in North Philadelphia, and was very real in the 1990s. It gave my college experience texture, and it has been very useful in my career as a journalist.
CS: What will your new role on the Board of Trustees entail and how will it impact your daily schedule? What do you think you will bring to the table as a member?
TH: Well it doesn’t, I mean I’m still working out the linguistics of the board meeting that in what we’ve discussed is for me to be able to provide, how do I, you know let me think of the best way I could say this, it was important for me and the board that I am a useful member of the board meaning some of the modern concerns and issues of the young student body that exists right now that perhaps I can bring those to the table. Also most of the Temple students are from Philly or nearby. I am proof that you know kids from 1528 miles away can end up at temple so the reach of Temple is far greater than I think people realize. We often associate it with um people who live in Philadelphia and it’s a first choice for many, but it can be the first choice for students outside of Pennsylvania, outside of the US even which we see but it’s not apart of the temple storyline and I’d like to shed more light on that through my personal journey.
CS: How has being “Temple Made” helped you to be successful throughout your career?
TH: Well you know there was a contrast, especially when I was at temple in the 90s and/to late 80s, we were in an economic downturn. North Philadelphia, as we know, is economically depressed, but it is coming and it is developing and we are seeing businesses there that maybe some people never imagined. Here I was at this great university, a prestigious university, but I would walk outside the gates you know near Mitten Hall and just a few steps away, you’d have people living in despair, extreme poverty and so it allowed me to know that I was on a great journey, one that was a privilege and is a privilege and that for the grace of God there go I, I could have been you know the kid who’s family had to live in Richard Allen projects and maybe didn’t have this opportunity. So it reminded me everyday of the privilege it is to attend a great university like Temple and it gave me great perspective and it reminded me each and every day that while yes it’s great to have a wonderful college experience and have fun – and trust me I had my share of fun at the great Mitten Hall parties and danced to house music, there’s a bigger responsibility and it was also for me a big responsibility in that I was one of the first to graduate from a university of Temple’s caliber in my family. So, it allows me as a reporter to take some of those very same skills that made me thankfully aware of the struggle, or as the kids like to say the struggle is real you know, it made me aware of all of that so when I was a general assignment reporter and I was going into areas that were very unfamiliar to me, I went in with a familiarity because I had a school that allowed me to see the real hardship of people who live below the poverty line.
CS: Do you have any advice for Temple students? Do you have any specific advice for those who want to be in the media?
TH: Gosh. I tell people all the time, I can tell anyone ten things to do, and it will turn out different for anyone. I truly believe you have to absorb the experience. You will learn things in class and books, but you will learn so much more when you stay aware and present, and being able to have the Temple experience, the Temple grit. There is a grit that comes along with this beautiful university, this prestigious university. Maybe because its in Philadelphia, maybe it is because many students come from the New York-Philly area. But remain present, and understand that yes you will acquire a remarkable amount of knowledge from professors and books, but the textbook of life is all around you and it may reveal its self in the most unlikely way. That’s how I look at it. I think you have to be present. What you are able to learn is not always in the pages of the book in front of you. And I think Temple provides that opportunity in many ways.
CS: What would you tell your college self, if you had the chance?
TH: I would say (laughing) college Tamron, prepare for your interview with Cassandra, because you are going to be on the Board of Trustees! (Laughter). Some of it I kind of saw. I new I wanted to be a journalist, I didn’t know if I would be a war correspondent, or a report or an anchor and at the time there was no MSNBC, so that wasn’t in my head. I knew this would be my career path, but I did not know I would end up on the board of my university as a member, or that I would be interviewed by a student who has the same feelings and anxiety and all of the emotions that I had at this point in my journey at Temple. So you you are me and I am you, and it blows me away. And when they told me my first interview would be with Temple, I feel that connection so strongly, feel it coursing through me; thinking about where I was and where I am now, and it is because of that university. I owe it to the university, to the board, to the staff, to the alumni.