KNOXVILLE — Former NBA star and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumnus Allan Houston will give the keynote address at Torch Night, an annual tradition for UT students.
Torch Night will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Thompson-Boling Arena.
A candlelight ceremony, Torch Night typically draws around 2,000 students each year. During the ceremony, seniors pass the “Torch of Preparation” to new students. Faculty, staff and members of the community also are invited.
The event will be hosted by Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, in his first year with the campus, and his staff of vice chancellors and deans. Student Government Association President Laura Nishida will pass the symbolic torch to freshman representatives from each of the Knoxville campus’ colleges.
This year’s freshman class of 3,723 is one of the most academically accomplished and diverse UT has seen. While admissions numbers won’t be final until the 14th day of class, the freshman class is expected to be 17 percent minority, compared to about 13 percent last fall. The class is projected to be 9 percent African American. There are 40 National Merit scholarship winners in the incoming freshman class, nearly double last year’s 22.
Houston played basketball for the Volunteers from 1989 until he graduated in 1993 as the university’s all-time leading scorer. He was selected 11th overall in the 1993 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, and in 1996 he signed with the New York Knicks as a free agent. Houston spent nine seasons with the Knicks before announcing his retirement in 2005. He currently serves as the assistant to the president for basketball operations for the Knicks, while devoting much of his time to various charity and nonprofit organizations, including his Legacy Foundation, which partners with a variety of community and corporate organizations to empower and serve the needs of young people.
Houston also continues to build and expand Allan Houston Enterprises, which serves as an umbrella company for a variety of business ventures in the areas of media, youth development and fashion, among others.
Torch Night was first held in 1925 when it was started by Victor Davis, a former UT alumni secretary, as the Freshman Pledge Ceremony. In 1929, the name changed to Freshman Torch Night. A bugler positioned in Ayres Hall Tower 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 the freshmen took the oath of loyalty to the university. The freshmen formally were declared part of the student body and received lighted candles to symbolize the “torch of preparation.”
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 held in Alumni Memorial Gym.
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