KNOXVILLE — Pat Summitt, UT Lady Vols basketball coach and women’s college basketball legend, will deliver the keynote address at the annual Torch Night candlelight ceremony, one of the long standing traditions of the University of Tennessee.
The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena. Torch Night draws several thousand students for a moving evening in which seniors pass the torch of preparation to new students. All students, faculty and other members of the campus community are invited.
Chancellor Loren Crabtree and his staff of vice chancellors and deans will host the event. Student Government Association President Kristi Bogle will pass the symbolic torch to freshman representatives from each of the colleges.
UT’s 4,200 new freshmen have a combined ACT score of 25.8 and a high school grade point average of 3.6. This Volunteer class of 2010 has the highest percentage of straight-A students in UT’s history.
Victor Davis, a former UT alumni secretary, initiated Torch Night on Oct. 9, 1925, as the Freshman Pledge Ceremony. In 1929 the name changed to Freshman Torch Night. From Ayres Hall Tower a bugler called the freshman class to the “Hill,” then proceeded to the main entrance of the campus to “give a yell” for the sophomores and then for the juniors.
Seniors met the freshmen at the top of the hill where they took the oath of loyalty to the university. The freshmen formally were declared part of the student body and received lit candles to symbolize the “torch of preparation.”
Students left the hill in silence, carrying the candles to an iron fence bordering Cumberland Avenue where the candles continued to burn into the night.
By the early 1980s the ceremony had become more subdued, with a select senior passing the torch to a select freshman at halftime of a basketball game.
In 1984, a ceremony reminiscent of the first one was initiated and the first one of that type was held at the Alumni Memorial Gym.
Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball, has led the UT program for 32 years. She celebrated the 880th win of her career on March 22, 2005, and the university dedicated its basketball court in her honor. It is now known as “The Summitt.” Well known for her intensity and her ability to motivate, she is a highly sought speaker for all types of audiences throughout the nation.
Contact: Jane Redmond (865-974-7449)