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Generosity from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumni and friends reached a new record during the 2019–20 fiscal year. More than 50,000 donors chose to contribute to UT, and their support has helped the university continue its legacy as a top-tier public research university as well as supporting student success.

“The entire Volunteer community can be proud of what they’ve accomplished,” said Chip Bryant, vice chancellor for advancement. “Thanks to the commitment and passion of our alumni and supporters, this difficult year has surpassed all others in terms of the breadth of support for UT and its talented students.”

Despite the year’s uncertainty, UT’s supporters delivered significant impact through a number of avenues. The Join the Journey campaign, which launched in 2012, closed after exceeding its $1.1 billion goal two years early. The campaign ultimately reached more than $1.33 billion in contributions, making it the most successful in UT’s history.

In addition, a concerted effort was made during the early days of COVID-19 to gather support for those affected by the crisis through the Student Emergency Fund, which has garnered more than $319,000 for students in need.

“I was absolutely inspired to see how many supporters joined together to help our students affected by these unforeseen circumstances,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “As we like to say, Vols help Vols, and our Volunteer community really stepped up with such meaningful contributions to the Student Emergency Fund.”

One Vol who benefited from the Student Emergency Fund in April was Heath Allen, a junior geography major. He used the support to find an apartment in Knoxville.

“I likely would have had to leave Knoxville and would have been without internet to complete my semester,” said Allen. “Since my mother passed, I haven’t had a place to stay other than on campus. I had to run my credit card up to get a place to stay in town and to be able to afford internet. With the Student Emergency Fund, I was able to pay off that debt and move into an actual apartment.”

Throughout the year, donors consistently supported the areas and causes most meaningful to them. Many chose to support scholarships that ease students’ financial burdens and help them pursue their education and prepare to enter the workforce.

Other highlights of the year include the Big Orange Give, an annual day of giving which this year raised a record $2.55 million in just 24 hours. Several centers were named, including the Judith Anderson Herbert Writing Center and the University Libraries’ new Medbery Makerspace. In addition, a record number of alumni participated in programs such as in-person or virtual events, student recruitment activities, and volunteer leadership activities.

“It is evident that the Volunteer spirit thrives throughout our university community,” said Bryant. “The generosity of our donors is energizing today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.”

UT raises funds through the University of Tennessee Foundation, an independent nonprofit corporation that seeks to enrich the lives of UT students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends through alumni engagement, financial stewardship, and private investments. The foundation is the preferred channel for all private contributions benefiting faculty and students at the University of Tennessee System.

Collectively, UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, the UT Health Science Center, UT Martin, and the UT Institute of Agriculture received more than $195 million in commitments during the 2019–20 fiscal year. The foundation had more than 67,000 donors, the highest number in the system’s history.


Mallorie Mendence (865-661-6302,