More than 650 students attended Tuesday evening’s Aloha Oe ceremony, one of the university’s oldest graduation traditions, at Ayres Hall. The farewell service invited graduating seniors to gather one last time before their separate commencement ceremonies to say goodbye to the university and pledge their loyalty to UT.
Aloha Oe was created as a companion event to Torch Night, which students attend as freshmen. Soon-to-be-graduates light candles and pass the “Torch of Service” to their fellow seniors to inspire them to be leaders in their communities.
The first Aloha Oe was held in May 1926 on Shields-Watkins Field and featured a muddy game of tug-of-war, students in grass skirts, and ukuleles. It has since become a more formal ceremony, with students dressed in caps and gowns processing up the Hill to the lawn of the campus’s hallmark building. Despite the changes, the ceremony’s purpose remains the same: to give the graduating seniors a meaningful conclusion to their undergraduate years.
UT alumnus and “Voice of the Tennessee Titans” Mike Keith was the guest speaker. Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek and Melissa Shivers, assistant vice chancellor for student life, also spoke. Outgoing Student Government Association president Jake Baker and Mortar Board honor society president Jasmine Hammons addressed their fellow classmates as well.
Attendees were treated to a surprise orange and white fireworks display at the conclusion of the ceremony.