Skip to main content

From significant events to famous visitors to the loss of a great friend, 2016 was chock-full of moments the Volunteer family will never forget.

Here are a few of the things that made us smile, applaud, or shed a tear during the past year:

Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek poses in front of the McClung Museum (Photo by Tyler Oxendine).
  • Chancellor Cheek Announces Plans to Return to Faculty—In June, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek announced he would step down as chancellor and transition into a faculty position. Cheek, 70, has been chancellor for close to eight years and said it’s been the “best job I’ve ever had.” Many have praised Cheek for his accomplishments as well as his leadership through some difficult times. One faculty leader said, “In my nearly 24 years at UT, I have witnessed greater improvements in the academic success and physical plant and infrastructure since Chancellor Cheek’s appointment six years ago than in all of my previous 18 years combined.” Beverly Davenport, interim president at the University of Cincinnati, will take over as chancellor in February.
  • Goodbye, Pat—Legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt passed away on June 28 after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In the days that followed, a constant stream of mourners visited Pat Summitt Plaza, where a makeshift memorial grew. On July 14, thousands of Volunteers came together in Thompson-Boling Arena to celebrate her life. Newswoman Robin Roberts hosted the emotional farewell and speakers included Summitt’s son, Tyler; former Vol and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning; and Lady Vols Coach Holly Warlick.

Sarah and Clinton

  • Happy anniversaries—The campus celebrated the 100th anniversary of Homecoming and the 50th anniversary of the Rock, the beloved 97.5-ton piece of Knox dolomite that serves as a canvas for spray-painted free expression.
  • Makeover continues in high gear—The Orange and White Residence Halls opened this year, as did a new parking garage and the new Facilities Services Complex on Sutherland Avenue. The Stokely Family Residence Hall just opened. Work continues on the second phase of the Student Union and Strong Hall and on the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building.
John D. Tickle delivers remarks on November 3, 2016, during a celebration of the naming of the Tickle College of Engineering in his honor.
  • Another named college—The Tickle College of Engineering was named in October to honor distinguished alumnus John D. Tickle. It is the second time in the campus’s 222-year history that a college has been named for an alumnus and benefactor—the first was the Haslam College of Business, named for benefactor James A. Haslam II. Tickle, a 1965 industrial engineering graduate from Bristol, Tennessee, is chairman of the Strongwell Corporation.
  • Record-setting game—The largest crowd ever to watch a college football game gathered at Bristol Motor Speedway to watch the Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol on September 10. Speedway officials estimated the crowd at nearly 157,000. Oh, yeah … we won, 45-24.
  • It’s elemental—A UT researcher was involved in discovering a new element that was awarded a spot on the periodic table and named Tennessine in homage to the state. Robert Grzywacz, director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Nuclear Physics and Applications and a physics professor, helped develop a process to measure the decay of nuclear materials that helped prove the element’s existence.

  • M*A*S*H star talks science—Alan Alda, an acclaimed actor and science educator widely known for his role as Col. Hawkeye Pierce in the television series M*A*S*H, delivered the second Ken and Blaire Mossman Distinguished Lecture on November 1. A packed house in Cox Auditorium in Alumni Memorial Building heard his advice for how scientists can better tell their stories and tout their discoveries.
  • Out-of-this-world speaker—Scott Kelly, a UT alumnus who spent an unprecedented year in space aboard the International Space Station, spoke to freshmen during the celebration of Life of the Mind, a shared reading experience. This year’s freshmen read Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean, associate professor of English.Dean and Kelly are collaborating on a book that will explore the future of space travel and tell the story of Kelly’s historic mission.
A view of a nighttime street market in Havana’s Castillo de san Carlos de la Cabana. The group from UT was in Cuba as part of a program helping with work projects and exploring the culture and history of Cuba.
  • Historic trip to Cuba—For more than five decades, there were tight restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba. Thawing diplomatic relations opened the door for a group of students from the Tickle College of Engineering to make an historic trip to the island country in May. “This trip gave our students a chance to see Cuba up close, to see that despite differences in a political sense, we are all human,” said Judith Mallory, international coordinator for the college. “This was the chance of a lifetime.”