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KNOXVILLE — Ron Frieson, a UT Knoxville alumnus and a hospital executive in Atlanta, will give the keynote address at Torch Night.

Torch Night will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Torch Night, a traditional candlelight ceremony, draws nearly 2,000 students each year. During the ceremony, seniors pass the “Torch of Preparation” to new students. Faculty, staff and other members of the community also are invited.

Interim Chancellor Jan Simek and his staff of vice chancellors and deans will host the event. Student Government Association President Jeff Wilcox will pass the symbolic torch to freshman representatives from each of the colleges.

UT’s 4,216 new freshmen are once again the best in school history. Their average ACT score is 26.6 and average high school grade-point average is 3.76.

Frieson earned his bachelor’s degree in finance at UT and his MBA in information systems at Georgia State University. He established an endowment named for his grandfather, Charlie Lemmons, to fund lectures, academic support and other programs.

Frieson is senior vice president for external affairs at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He oversees marketing, public relations and legislative matters for one of the country’s top pediatric health care systems.

Frieson has spent most of his professional career in telecommunications. He retired as president of Georgia operations for BellSouth.

He served as interim president and CEO of the Atlanta Urban League, and he is a board member of several community organizations.

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. 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 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.


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,

Traci Leonard, Student Affairs, 974-3440,