Grimes inspires the next generation to be “unapologetically you.”

When Tiffini Grimes walks into a room, she conveys a simple yet powerful message to the next generation of leaders, especially young women of color. “Go to your own rhythm and be yourself uncompromisingly,” she says with an infectious smile.

Grimes doesn’t just preach it, she lives it.

In her role as Deputy Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator at Purdue University, she helps shape the ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. It’s a tall order for a kid who says they grew up painfully shy before they found their voice.

In early February, Grimes returned to Fort Wayne as part of a Black History Month gathering at Concordia Lutheran High School. It came full circle for the 2001 CLHS graduate, who was part of a panel organized by the school and the Black Lutheran Scholarship Team (BLAST).

Tiffini Grimes speaks to students at Concordia High School during a Black History Month gathering on February 2, 2023.

The event was attended by African American students who visited Concordia in the mid-1970s and decided to send their children there as well. It was an opportunity for her to share the stage with her parents for the first time. “Concordia is a legacy for our family. Anyone who knows our family knows we’ve all come here on both sides and it’s a proud tradition to have.”

Tiffini Grimes speaks to students at Concordia High School on February 2, 2023.

Grimes uses their platform to amplify their message. “It’s a huge responsibility to make sure young people, especially young girls of color, know that there really are no boundaries and we should be proud of the skin we’re in.”

Grimes grew up in a household where her parents told her she could be anything she wanted. She believed it, but says it didn’t occur to her immediately.

“Representation is important,” she says. “It wasn’t until I saw people actually functioning and operating in the careers I wanted to pursue that it felt different.”

To them, that person was the late Eugene Parker. Parker pioneered the NFL as one of the first Black Power Agents. He too went to Concordia with her parents in the 1970s.

Grimes outlined his career for a class project when she was just 16 years old. Years later, after working tirelessly, he finally hired her as an intern after her junior year in college.

There she saw Parker’s attention to detail and integrity that laid the foundation for the path she would take. Not as a sports agent, but in sports administration.

Tiffini Grimes speaks with Pat Hoffmann from WANE15 at Concordia Lutheran High School.

After graduating from law school in Valparaiso, she spent six years on the University of Alabama executive team and served as an administrator for the Crimson Tide elite football program and other sports.

Speaking to students in the same classroom where she grew up, she sowed inspiration. “To the students of color here, especially my young African American beautiful black women. I want to say use it as your power. Use it as your power.”

“There are rooms where you will be the only woman. Rooms where you will be the only person of color. This is a powerful thing.”

“My parents told me you have to be ten times better. Ten times better prepared.”

“So if you’re in a room where you feel like the room isn’t ready for you, that’s fine. Turn your platform over and show them why the room should be finished for you.”

“People who aren’t ready for you aren’t a problem for you, they’re a problem for them.”

The news reached Concordia Junior Curry Jackson, who says she has been inspired to follow in her footsteps. “She’s a firecracker. She doesn’t take no for an answer and is so confident. It’s really important to know that someone my skin color, and a woman above, can be successful and are willing to give me advice.”

Grimes brings a lot to the table despite her small physique of just 1.57m. “When I walk into a room I’m probably not expected to come in the package I arrive in, but that’s not my fault. That’s not my problem. I’m there to do a job and build relationships. Eventually the people around me will overcome any prejudices they may have. It’s all about using your platform. As a woman of color, it’s my responsibility to make sure I walk into a space that’s very well prepared so that people can see us in a different light.”

Jackson took the message to heart and says she learned a valuable lesson. “You have to create your own opportunities. You won’t just be there. You have to go ahead and take her with you.”

It’s easy to see why Tiffini Grimes is positive Fort Wayne! Grimes inspires the next generation to be “unapologetically you.”

Dais Johnston

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