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UT is at a moment of great opportunity, and capitalizing on this momentum requires the courage to take risks, to care about one another, and to lead our state and world.

Those were key messages Donde Plowman shared Wednesday during her flagship address as part of her investiture ceremony at the Student Union. The ceremony formally installed her as UT’s ninth chancellor.

Investiture Ceremony for Chancellor Donde Plowman inside the Student Union Auditorium on November 6, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

“Today we celebrate this university and the great leaders and thinkers who came before us,” she said after the ceremony. “The hard work of everyone on this campus has put us on the path of greatness, and I could not be more excited about the future.”

The investiture is a traditional academic ceremony held to formally recognize the appointment of a university’s top leader sometime after they have taken office. Plowman has been serving as chancellor since July 1.

Plowman’s remarks to the crowd included a nod to the past, a celebration of the present, and vision for the future.

In her address, Plowman told the story of Charles Dabney, who led the university from 1887 to 1904 and ushered in a new modern era for the university, including revamping the curriculum and admitting women for the first time. She also pointed to the students who desegregated the university, faculty who transformed their academic fields, and legendary Lady Vols Head Basketball Coach Pat Summitt as trailblazers who courageously lit the path for those who followed.

She lauded the contributions of faculty, staff, and students for the university’s current momentum in graduating more students, conducting more research, connecting more Tennesseans, and garnering more support than ever before.

“We are standing at a pivotal moment of extraordinary opportunity,” she said in her address. “What we do next is up to us.”

She then challenged the campus community to have the courage to take risks in revamping curriculum and research, including launching the Oak Ridge Institute, to care about and stand up for one another so that everyone at UT feels they matter and belong, and to light the way for others through service and courage.

Investiture Ceremony for Chancellor Donde Plowman inside the Student Union Auditorium on November 6, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

During the ceremony, UT System Interim President Randy Boyd and John Compton, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented Plowman with the Chancellor’s Medallion, which was designed in 1994 for the investiture of Chancellor William “Bill” Snyder during the university’s bicentennial. Before her flagship address, Plowman was introduced by Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Mandersheid.

Additional representatives from campus also addressed Plowman. Mary Lucal, associate vice chancellor for human resources, read a poem written by Marilyn Kallet, professor emerita and poet laureate of the City of Knoxville; Gary Skolits, president of Faculty Senate and associate professor of educational psychology and counseling, gave remarks on behalf of the faculty; Natalie Campbell, Student Government Association president, and David Willis, president of the Graduate Student Senate, offered remarks on behalf of students; Anne Smith, the King and Judy Rogers Professor of Business and head of the Department of Management, gave remarks as a colleague.

The University of Tennessee Air Force ROTC Color Guard gave the presentation of the colors, while graduate student Derek James Stull sang the national anthem.

The ceremony included a performance of “New Heights” by the Volunteer Brass Quintet, a selection specially commissioned for the ceremony and composed by senior Claire Terrell. UT’s Concert Choir sang the alma mater at the conclusion of the ceremony, and the UT String Quartet performed “Pride and Joy,” also a commissioned piece, composed by junior Will Eakin.

Attendees included students, faculty, staff, and alumni, along with former chancellors and presidents, current and former trustees, community leaders, UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chairs, representatives of higher education institutions across the state, and members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

To mark the occasion, the university will host a Chancellor’s Day of Service from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, November 15. Volunteers can sign up to help serve campus and community organizations.

The full text of Plowman’s remarks can be found on the chancellor’s web page.

Investiture Ceremony for Chancellor Donde Plowman inside the Student Union Auditorium on November 6, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)