Sammye Wynn, educator and children’s advocate, was the first black female educator to work in the Educational Opportunities Planning Center founded by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1966. It trained teachers from four southern states in ways to desegregate their schools. She remained in her position when the Center became MAARDAC (Mid-Atlantic Appalachian Race Desegregation Assistance Center). At both centers, Wynn trained teachers to interact with each other and with racially mixed classes. She based her programs on the beliefs that all children need to have high expectations, and that teachers should not judge children by their racial or socioeconomic backgrounds.
In 1947 Wynn earned an R.N. degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville and established a career as a cancer researcher before coming to Knoxville in 1956 with her late husband, James W. Wynn, an educator. Frustrated by the discrimination she found in the nursing profession in Knoxville, she returned to Nashville to earn a B.S. in elementary education from Tennessee State University in 1958. In 1961 she earned an M.S. in education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Having retired from the University of Tennessee in 1983, Wynn continues her teaching mission with the Career Awareness and Motivation Program (CAMP), a joint venture sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority and Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Through CAMP, students are exposed to successful men and women in many career fields.
Wynn also taught in the American School in Ethiopia for a year when her husband was on assignment for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She left Africa deeply affected by conditions that could not provide “even marginal help for the needs of the poor.”