Two University of Tennessee icons were honored Tuesday at a ceremony in the heart of the campus. President Emeritus Joe Johnson and former UT athletics broadcaster John Ward attended the unveiling of a permanent brick marker naming a major campus thoroughfare for them.
The Joe Johnson/John Ward University Mall is a stone walkway located between the Hodges Library and the Humanities building in the center of campus. The walkway is used by approximately 17,000 people each day. It contains an inlaid granite timeline of the university, an amphitheater, a plaza and replica of the UT seal.
"The naming of this mall couldn’t be more ideal," said Interim Chancellor Jan Simek. "It is, quite literally, the heart of campus and the place that joins us together, much like Joe and John have done for this university throughout their years of service."
The mall originally was suggested in the university’s 1994 revision of the campus master plan. Planners hoped to improve campus aesthetics and make it more pedestrian-friendly through an increase of green space on campus.
The Senior Gift committees in the classes of 1999 and 2000 adopted the mall as their class gifts and worked to name the mall in honor of the two men. They also provided research for the granite timeline on the walkway.
"From the university timeline to the amphitheater, the mall connects Volunteers, which is a lifeline for the university," said Chris Hamil, a representative from the 2000 Senior Gift Committee.
The walkway has become the site of several major events, including Kickoff to Commencement held each spring preceding graduation ceremonies and the annual Destination Imagination conference held each summer at UT. The walkway also is used each day by student groups recruiting for membership, holding fundraisers or distributing information.
"I am honored to be permanently associated with the outstanding John Ward on this impressive mall. I appreciate very much the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus naming the mall for John and me," said Johnson.
"When visitors come to UT, their first impression is formed by how the campus looks," Johnson said, "and this is a spot of beauty they will enjoy for years to come."
"Today my thanks go to two groups — students and non-students," said Ward. "The classes of 1999 and 2000, whose class gift was the idea to build a mall right here in the center of campus. And non-students, those thousands of Tennesseans who come to football and basketball games or listen to the Vol Network. People who never graduated or attended a class or even enrolled at UT. Coach [Bob] Woodruff used to call them ‘Sidewalk Alumni.’ Well now, when they come by the thousands to their campus, proud they shall be, knowing they will be walking on the best, most distinctive sidewalk in the world."
Johnson came to UT in 1958 as a graduate student and instructor of undergraduate political science courses. He since has served as executive assistant to President Andy Holt, vice president for development, chancellor of the UT Health Science Center in Memphis, executive vice president and vice president for business and finance.
He was named president in 1990 and served until 1999 and again from 2003-2004. He now serves as president emeritus, continuing to help raise money for UT. He most recently served in 2007 as chairman of the Family Campaign, the faculty and staff arm of the $1 billion Campaign for Tennessee capital campaign. The Family Campaign raised more than $48 million with gifts from more than 11,000 people.
Ward began broadcasting UT basketball games in 1965 and football in 1968. Until his retirement in 1999, he was the play-by-play announcer for the Vol Network, one of the largest college radio networks in the country. He was heard around the world on this network, local and national television networks, and the Internet.
Ward has received numerous awards, including the 1998 Lindsey Nelson Award, presented to the best collegiate sports announcer in the country, and the 1999 National Sportscaster of the Year Award by the All-America Football Foundation. He also has been named Sportscaster of the Year in Tennessee 27 times by the National Sportcasters and Sportswriters Association. Ward is also a successful advertising and marketing executive. Campaigns produced by his company have won many national and regional awards, including a Public Safety Campaign by the Insurors of Tennessee, which was selected as best in the country.
Ward received a B.A. in political science/history and a J.D. from the UT College of Law.