Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center receives first estate gift and largest single gift ever from Tech alumna
Ingra Conley, ’91 marketing, often said that the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center (BCC) at Tennessee Tech made an impact on her education. Now, Conley will make an even bigger impact on future generations of Tech students.
For 20 years, Ingra loyally and consistently supported the BCC with an annual gift. When she passed away in October of 2018 at the age of 49, she went one step further by including the BCC in her estate plans. It is the first estate gift and the largest single gift the BCC has received to date.
“Ingra had a very generous spirit and valued education, specifically the importance of higher education,” said Flora Ector, Ingra’s mother. “She chose to give back in an effort to acknowledge the gift she received as a scholarship recipient. She wanted to pay it forward.”
Ingra enrolled at Tech in 1987 as an engineering major, but she quickly learned that she was not suited for the technical world of engineering. She changed her major to marketing, and her love of entrepreneurship grew. Ingra started several businesses while she was a student including a button-making business. She also collaborated on a clothing line called Black Wear.
Ingra went on to earn a Master of Business Administration-Marketing Degree from Clark Atlanta University and started two small businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area: C&C Vending and Sweet Scripts, LLC. Ingra had a successful career in the corporate sector in executive positions with Sabre International, Texas Instruments, Microsoft Corporation, and AmerisourceBergen.
Ector recalls that Ingra joined a number of academic and student organizations while enrolled at Tech which allowed her to sharpen her skills in public speaking, managing people, and executing plans for a common good. She also took advantage of the numerous opportunities offered by the BCC. It provided her not only the opportunity to collaborate with other African American students, but it also gave her the chance to join cultural student groups as well.
The BCC was established in 1989 as a place where African American students find support among their peers. It is named in honor of Leona Lusk Officer, the first African American student to be admitted to Tech after schools were integrated. She became Tech’s first African American graduate, earning a degree in education in 1965.
“Ingra often spoke of the approachable faculty and staff members at the University,” recalls Ector. “To her, that was one of the advantages of attending Tennessee Tech. Marc Burnett was one of those people for Ingra. He served as an unofficial mentor, helping with course selections, providing advice, and assisting with the retention of her academic scholarship.”
Burnett, Vice President of Student Affairs, remembers Ingra as a kind, inquisitive, and determined young lady who was destined to be successful.
“Being associated with students like her is what has made this job so rewarding over the years,” said Burnett. “And while we certainly were not expecting it, I’m not completely surprised by her generous gift to the BCC. On behalf of the entire Tennessee Tech family, I thank Ingra’s family for the contribution she made.”