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In recent years, UT has challenged its alumni to fund more scholarships, and they have met that challenge with the help of alumni chapters, special interest councils, and individual donations.

“Raising scholarships for our students is the best way for us to show how much we value their commitment to education and their membership in the Volunteer family,” said Taylor Thomas, director of alumni student recruitment and scholarships. “Giving students scholarships is an investment in their future and an investment in everyone’s future.”

Student Alumni Associates at the 2017 UT Knoxville Alumni Board awards dinner.
Student Alumni Associates at the 2017 UT Knoxville Alumni Board awards dinner.

Since 2015, the number of scholarships funded by alumni chapters around the country has risen from 11 to 50. The number of donors contributing to each scholarship has increased from 10 to 2,543, and total donations to chapter scholarships have grown from $36,430 to $104,590.

For many years, UT’s Black Alumni Council, Army ROTC Alumni Council, Retirees Council, and Young Alumni Council have funded and awarded scholarships annually, and the Alumni Band Council Scholarship Endowment was established two years ago.

Last year, the Latino Alumni Council established and awarded a scholarship through a VOLStarter crowdfunding project. This year, the LGBTQA+ Alumni Council also used VOLStarter to fund a new scholarship, which is being awarded for the first time this semester.

Overall last year, donors to UT contributed close to $14.5 million for merit- and need-based undergraduate scholarships.

Many donors choose to endow a scholarship. Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs Chip Bryant (’93) and his wife, Kym (’96), recently created an endowment in honor of her parents. The William and Cleo Lester SAA Scholarship Endowment will provide a scholarship for a member of the Student Alumni Associates, an organization that connects current UT students with alumni and prospective students. It comprises nearly 100 student leaders from various backgrounds and majors.

“Without financial assistance I would have never been able to attend UT,” said Kym Bryant. “I worked three jobs while going to school, and the support I received relieved some of the stress on my family. Scholarships not only assist students financially, but they are also an acknowledgement of dedication and effort. It has always been important to Chip and me to pay forward the help we received as students at UT and encourage others to do the same. We know firsthand the difference our alumni, faculty, and staff can make in the lives of our current and future students. In the eyes of a recipient, there is no such thing as a small scholarship.”

About Join the Journey

As the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, aspires to become a preeminent institution, the $1.1 billion Join the Journey campaign will assist in positioning the university among the nation’s elite. The comprehensive fundraising campaign focuses on increasing support for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty support, college priorities, and athletics. The funds raised will create a student experience that reaches beyond the ordinary, shaping the next generation of leaders for the state, nation, and world.


Brooks Clark (865-974-5471,  

Jessy Lawrence (865-974-3912,