Two Scholarship Winners Say World-Record Wednesday Was ‘Pretty Great’

For two lucky UT students, Wednesday was doubly special: They helped the university set a GUINNESS WORLD RECORD for the largest human letter and they each walked away with a $5,000 scholarship.

UT’s feat—building a 4,223-person Power T— was featured live on the Today show as part of Rokerthon 3, weatherman Al Roker’s journey to five universities across the US to set world records.

At each stop, Today and PurePoint Financial have been awarding a $5,000 scholarship to a student participant. Most of the schools have found a way to award a second scholarship.

KNOXVILLE, TN – MARCH 29, 2017 – Guinness Book of World Records Largest Human Letter at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Amanda Izzi/Tennessee Athletics

At UT, sophomore Blaine Ziegler and freshman Emma Sopcak were the winners.

“It was a pretty great day,” Ziegler said. “UT broke a record and I got a scholarship.”

The two students’ names were pulled from student participant names that had been placed into a spirit team megaphone just before the world record was announced. Then, at the end of the Today show broadcast, Ziegler and Sopcak were summoned into the spotlight and each was awarded their scholarship live on national TV.

Ziegler, who is majoring in biological sciences and plans to go to medical school, won a $5,000 scholarship from Today and PurePoint Financial. Sopcak, who is majoring in nutrition, won a $5,000 scholarship funded by alumni donations, in honor of the 400-plus alumni who helped form the T.

Both students said they were standing in the giant T when their cell phones rang. Seeing the call was from an unrecognized Arizona phone number, both were hesitant to answer in the midst of all the fun.

When they did answer, they got a major surprise: the caller was a Today staff member who told them to bring their student ID and immediately come to the bottom of the T.

There they were greeted by Roker, Chancellor Beverly Davenport, and Coach Butch Jones, who together presented them with their scholarships live on national TV.

Both students said the scholarship money will come in very handy.

“I plan on being a doctor someday—either an ER physician or radiologist,” Ziegler said. “The extra scholarship money means that I will be one step closer towards my goals and dreams and be able to afford the education that it takes to achieve them.”

Sopcak said she’s discovered a new love for math since arriving at UT and is thinking of shifting into a health management or accounting major. The scholarship money will help her now—and may give her a nest egg for the future.

“Although my parents financially support my education, I will be able to assist them—in appreciation for all they do for me,” she said. “It could also fund a master’s program if I decide to go beyond my bachelor’s degree.” 

Both students said they love UT.

“UT offers a wide variety of student activities and organizations and does its best to make everyone feel like UT is their home. I love the football games as well as the classes I’m in,” said Ziegler, who grew up in an Army family that moved around a lot but considers Memphis his hometown because that’s where he went to high school.

He is a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Campus Events Board, and he is a peer health educator in Vols2Vols.

Sopcak, from Jackson, Tennessee, said UT was the perfect choice for her personally as well as academically. She is a member of Phi Mu sorority.

“I love that it’s far enough away from home that I am able to be independent but it’s not too far that I’m able to go have a weekend getaway with my family,” she said. “UT has made me feel at home from the moment I stepped on campus.”

Despite having to be at Neyland Stadium before the sun rose Wednesday, both students said they wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be part of the record-breaking moment.

“It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and privilege to be able to accomplish that achievement,” Sopcak said.

And the bragging rights are awesome, Ziegler said.

“I wanted to be able to say that I was part of a world record and thought it would be a cool thing to tell my friends about.”