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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, eclipsed its goal of receiving $2.5 million in just 24 hours during Big Orange Give, the university’s annual day of giving. Volunteers from every state and around the globe contributed more than 4,500 gifts on November 18, surging past the initial goal by more than $53,000. Many gifts were doubled in impact by the generosity of donors who chose to match gifts.

“Big Orange Give is an inspiring day,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “To see Volunteers come together, especially during this challenging time, for UT students, faculty, and the community it serves is a reminder that Vols accomplish great things when we unite. I am grateful for the generosity shown by each and every donor and am committed to ensuring the impact of their giving is felt in a meaningful way.”

Donors were able to choose from more than a thousand funds and supported areas of UT most meaningful to them. The funds raised will support scholarships, student experiences, colleges, RecSports, and programs across campus.

“The success of Big Orange Give goes to show the deep commitment Volunteers have for their university,” said Chip Bryant, vice chancellor for advancement. “We are grateful that donors stepped up to support the areas of UT that mean the most to them with gifts of all sizes and a desire to positively impact the lives of UT students.”

For members of the Student Alumni Associates, being involved in Big Orange Give meant a busy day of thanking donors and drumming up support on social media. UT senior Lauren Reed, who participated in the event virtually, said the outpouring of generosity she experienced throughout the day was a true demonstration of the Volunteer spirit.

“Big Orange Give was particularly inspiring to me as a senior,” Reed said. “The Volunteer community and the ideas that unite it are really an enormous force for good in this world. I’m grateful that I get to be part of it, and the fact that members of this community, and the generations that came before me, are standing with my classmates and me means a lot.”

Students holding a thank you sign
Student Alumni Associates outside Ayres Hall during Big Orange Give.​

The generosity of these donors was amplified by an anonymous couple who gave a $750,000 challenge gift to support the Carousel Theatre Campaign, which was initiated when Big Orange Give hit the $1.75 million mark.

The Carousel Theatre Campaign seeks to overhaul the approximately 300-seat Carousel, a theatre in the round directly adjacent to the Clarence Brown. Built by Volunteers during the 1950s as part of a community project, the Carousel provides an intimate experience with audience members watching performances from all angles. Studies by two separate architecture firms have concluded that the building should be replaced, and the donors’ gift brings that project close to its design phase.

This couple seeks to foster relations between the university and surrounding communities by supporting arts and culture, with an eye on attracting corporations and furthering the region’s economic development. The Clarence Brown draws professional directors, designers, and actors to campus from around the world, and a state-of-the-art Carousel Theatre would allow UT students to experience firsthand the teamwork, artistry, and technical expertise that go into a professional production.

The couple values this type of crossdisciplinary learning, as they also support engineering students. In doing so, they encourage those students to participate in the technical aspects of theatre. Engineering students can bring to the theatre electrical knowledge needed for lighting as well as mechanical abilities vital for stagecraft. The project also serves as a teaching tool for students from UT’s College of Architecture and Design. As a design project, they have begun to imagine the future of the Carousel Theatre. These activities are intended to bring together students with very different abilities and allow them to practice working as a team.

Lauren Herbstritt, director of advancement for annual giving, said the majority of contributions during Big Orange Give were under $100.

“When each individual’s support unites with the generosity of our match and challenge donors, we are able to do amazing things,” Herbstritt said. “It really was a wonderful demonstration of how committed alumni and friends are to the success of the university and its future.”

Full results are available on the Big Orange Give web page.



Mallorie Mendence (865-661-6302,