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KNOXVILLE – A gift from an alumna is helping the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Arts and Sciences attract the best and brightest students to its graduate programs.

The Newton W. and Wilma C. Thomas Graduate Fellowships in the Humanities and Social Sciences will establish 13 graduate fellowships for doctoral students in those disciplines beginning next fall.

“Graduate students contribute significantly to our research and teaching mission. Offering competitive assistantships and fellowships — particularly in the humanities — is critical to recruiting talented students who will contribute to our knowledge-based economy,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

The fellows will receive $16,000 annually for four years as they pursue doctoral degrees in their respective fields. The fellows will not have teaching requirements during their first year of study. In subsequent years, recipients will be assigned as graduate assistants or graduate teaching assistants.

“The Thomas Fellowships will give us the opportunity to attract some of the best graduate students in the country to our outstanding doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences,” said Bruce Bursten, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are very grateful to the donors for their support in helping us further our goals for excellence in graduate education.”

The Thomas Fellows will be selected from the graduate student applicant pool based on their undergraduate institution, grade-point average, graduate entrance exam (GRE) scores, honors and awards. The first group of fellows will be chosen this spring.

Wilma Thomas was a Knoxville native and a member of the 1934 class in the College of Arts and Sciences. She passed away in 2006, but established an endowment as part of her estate gift. Her husband, Newton Thomas, was an executive with Coca-Cola.

The gift is part of the university’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Tennessee. The most ambitious effort in the university’s history, the campaign places UT among the ranks of the nation’s largest public and private institutions that have sought this level of private support.

The campaign secures private gifts through contributions, pledges and planned giving to advance the university’s strategic goals that include improving student access and success, research and economic development, outreach and globalization. More than 98 percent of all gifts are designated for a specific purpose or program, such as scholarships or endowed professorships, and help provide the vital resources to advance key initiatives.

C O N T A C T :

Beth Gladden (865-974-9008,