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Torchbearer Reunion group photo
Members of the Torchbearer Reunion gather in front of the Torchbearer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, for a group photo on Friday, November 11, 2016. Photo by Steven Bridges.

More than 95 recipients of the Torchbearer award—the highest student honor bestowed by the university—gathered on campus over the weekend to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the award.

The reunion brought together Torchbearer recipients representing classes from 1945 to 2015. These Torchbearers reconnected with their alma mater by spending time with faculty and administrators, touring new campus facilities, meeting with students, and attending the Volunteers’ game against the University of Kentucky.

At a dinner on Friday, former Lady Vols forward Cierra Burdick, a Torchbearer for the class of 2015, described her experience at UT and how much it shaped her as a person, with special words for her late coach, Pat Summitt. “I carry a little piece of Pat in my heart,” said Burdick. “And I encourage all the Torchbearers here to do the same.”

The Torchbearer statue has symbolized the Volunteers’ tradition of service since 1931. To coincide with the statue’s debut, the university created the Torchbearer Award as its most prestigious student honor. In the 85 years since, more than 650 students have received the award.

Torchbearers are undergraduate students chosen on the basis of overall excellence in academic achievement and outstanding commitment to others, as demonstrated in student activities and significant contributions to the university and the community. Students chosen as Torchbearers embody the Volunteer spirit and display initiative and service in the best interest of both the university and their fellow students.

Three current recipients of the Torchbearer Scholarship were also on hand for the dinner: Robert Frederick of Germantown, Tennessee, a junior majoring in interdisciplinary programs; Alexander Hwang of Knoxville, a senior, majoring in kinesiology; and Kirsten Salonga of Nashville, a senior majoring in biological sciences.

The Torchbearer Scholarship was established in 2000 by Scott Lucas, a 1980 Torchbearer, to reward UT students who have demonstrated outstanding service to the student body and solid academic achievement during their freshman and sophomore years. Since its inception some 50 students have received these scholarships, which are valued at between $1,500 and $3,000 per year.


Brooks Clark (865-974-5471,