University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt was the first person honored with a star on the new Riverwalk of Fame during a ceremony today on Volunteer Landing.
Mayor Bill Haslam made the announcement that Summitt would be honored after she won her 1,000th game as the Lady Volunteers coach last February.
Each person on the Riverwalk will be honored with a large star that will include their name as well as a small, but significant, symbol of what that person did that made a difference in people’s lives. In Summitt’s case it was a basketball.
“We’re all proud of Pat Summitt and always happy to have an opportunity to let her know how much she means to us,” Haslam said. “She’s a great choice to be the person honored with this first star on the Riverwalk.”
The Riverwalk of Fame — which will stretch along Volunteer Landing — will honor people from Knoxville and the surrounding area who have made a great mark nationally or internationally and in doing so, brought honor to East Tennessee. The honorees can range from writers, musicians, actors, athletes and coaches to scientists, astronauts, statesmen and others of note.
It’s anticipated that there will be one ceremony annually at which up to three people would be inducted into the Riverwalk of Fame. Summitt, however, will be the only person honored during this initial ceremony.
Susan Richardson Williams approached the City of Knoxville early last year with the concept of a Riverwalk of Fame honoring accomplished individuals from Knoxville and East Tennessee. She also suggested to both the city and the University of Tennessee that Summitt would be a great first honoree.
Summitt was a 21-year-old senior at the University of Tennessee-Martin which she was offered the UT job in the spring of 1974. Less than a year later she directed UT to a 69-32 win over Middle Tennessee State University on January 10, 1975, for her first win as the Lady Vols coach. At the time she was also attending graduate school, teaching a full load of classes and getting ready to play for the United States in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Since then her UT teams have won eight NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships, she coached the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team to an Olympic gold medal and all of her players who have completed their eligibility at UT have earned their degrees.