Wayne women striving since 1940s


For years women have succeeded in a world that’s perceived to be run by men. Today, women prosper in fields such as education, law, medicine, serving the country and many other occupations. 

The women of the Wayne family, however, have been thriving, as far as receiving an education, constantly since the ’40s.  

Earlier this year, Hattie Wayne submitted a claim to Guinness World Records stating that six generations and 86 family members have attended Grambling State.

Out of the 86 family members to attend GSU 52 earned degrees; 32 of them were women.

“The women of our family are very strong, very opinionated, very creative, we’re forward-thinkers, and business like,” said Hattie Wayne, the organizer of the family’s record attempted. “It says that education has been very, very important to us and it’s at the top of the list at everything we do.”

Leola Wayne is the oldest living Wayne Grambling graduate. She was a Union Parish School District teacher. Also, she taught in the Chicago School District. She is the daughter of Ollie Wayne.

“They wanted all of the women to take care of themselves,” said Leola Wayne. “They wanted us to be sufficient in life and they didn’t want us to be dependable.”

Dr. Verjanis Peoples is a Grambling graduate, presently serving as vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at Southern University, Baton Rouge. Her grandmother, Georgia Jones-Wayne, was a Grambling graduate. She graduated in the 1940s. Dr. Peoples is the daughter of Vernita Wayne-Andrews and the granddaughter of King Wayne.

Renee Tatum is a former professor at Tuskegee University, Alabama State University and South Carolina State University.  She is a doctoral candidate seeking a Ph.D. in educational leadership at Keiser University. She graduated magna cum laude and was a National Merit Scholar. She is the daughter of Piccola Wayne-Tatum.

Rose Wayne is the eighth child of 17 children of Carlisle Wayne. Seven of her siblings attended Grambling State University. Direct commission was her title as she served in the United States Army. Her son Dr. Bryon Freelon is researcher scientist in Physics at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. 

Mary Jean Will-Johnikin is a professor at Sullivan University. Her daughter, Dr. Micean Johnikin, is a pediatric cardiologist. She is a graduate of Tuskegee University and Stanford University and is presently an M.D. at Howard University. Mary is the great granddaughter of Moses Wayne.

“The race isn’t won by the swift or the strong, but is won by whoever endures at the end,” said Mary Jean Will-Johnikin. “The male may jump out there and be first, but that doesn’t mean we (women) have to stop the race. We just have to keep on striving.”

The contributions Wayne’s family made to society speaks volumes for today’s women. Despite this being a so-called “man’s world”, the success of the women of their family says that women can compete in the world just as men can.  The advice Hattie gave to the upcoming women is to “don’t let others validate who you really are.”

As of now, the Wayne’s family doesn’t have the Guinness World record of having the largest number of family members to attend the same university – Grambling State – but Hattie Wayne said the family have submitted all of the required documents and are waiting for conformation.  She said she would do a “fast review and it should take three-to-four days to come back.”