The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will host five in-person commencement ceremonies May 7–9 for spring and summer 2021 graduates. For the first time ever the ceremonies will take place in Neyland Stadium, and they will be held rain or shine. Graduates were able to register in advance, and additional health and safety protocols will be enforced so graduates and their families can safely gather to celebrate their momentous accomplishments.
“Our students have worked exceptionally hard through challenging circumstances, and their persistence has inspired us all,” said Provost John Zomchick. “I know they are excited for this historic commencement ceremony and the opportunity to hear their names called in Neyland Stadium. We are all looking forward to celebrating with our graduates and their families.”
This spring the university will award approximately 4,825 degrees—3,548 undergraduate degrees, 1,065 graduate degrees and certificates, 121 law degrees, and 91 veterinary medicine degrees. Additionally, 17 Air Force ROTC cadets and 22 Army ROTC cadets will be commissioned.
Roughly 4,820 graduates will participate in this spring’s ceremonies, including about 500 graduates from 2020 returning for their chance to participate in commencement. Ceremonies are grouped by academic college, with one hooding ceremony dedicated to all graduate and professional student graduates.
Caleb Texeira of Knoxville can’t wait to share the moment with his family in Neyland Stadium. He’ll be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in audiology and speech pathology. “2020 was not an easy year for anyone, but I learned a lot about myself and the world around me. The circumstances have made the achievement of graduating even more meaningful to me,” he said.
Dates and times for each ceremony are available on the commencement website. All ceremonies will be webcast live for those unable to attend.
During the 4 p.m. ceremony on Saturday, May 8, the internationally renowned bass fisher Bill Dance will be awarded an honorary doctorate in natural resources from the Herbert College of Agriculture—which includes the Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries—in recognition of his success and his support of agriculture and natural resources sciences.
A lifelong UT fan and advocate, Bill Dance grew up on Tennessee waters. Rather than follow in his family’s tradition of medicine, he took a chance to make a living pursuing his passion for fishing. In 1968, Dance won his first B.A.S.S event; he would go on to become the only person to win back-to-back events three times. By the 1970s, he had established himself as one of the top professional bass fishers in the world, eventually holding 23 national titles.
In 1968, Bill Dance Outdoors, a fishing television series, aired on an ABC affiliate in Memphis. The series would broadcast more than 2,000 shows in its history. Today it’s aired nationally on the Outdoor Channel and World Fishing Network. In addition to hosting television shows, Dance is the author of seven books and has been a regular contributor to national magazines including Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Bassmasters, and Outdoor Life.
He won the 1978 Congressional National Water Safety Award, was inducted to the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001, and was named the 2006 Male Professional Athlete of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Dance is known for his trademark orange and white UT cap, which he’s worn for more than 50 years while fishing, competing, and filming. He has been recognized as an influence in at least one student’s decision to come to UT, and two of his grandsons attended the university.
Supported by a list of corporate sponsors regarded as a who’s who of the outdoor industry, Dance has been an influence in the growth and development of the fishing field. In West Tennessee, his impact was instrumental in Bass Pro Shops’ opening a location in the Memphis area. His contributions to conservation and outdoor recreation are numerous, and his work comes from his passion for fishing and respect for the environment.
About the Ceremonies
Each ceremony includes approximately 1,000 graduates with a defined number of guests. Everyone will be required to wear a mask. All graduate and guest seating is assigned and socially distanced. During and between ceremonies, all common spaces will be cleaned, including restrooms and touch points throughout the building and seating on the field.
During the ceremonies there will be a contactless stage crossing on an ADA-compliant ramp with no handshakes. Each college has designated select faculty who have volunteered to hood all graduate students.
After crossing the stage, graduates will have their photo taken and will return to their seat on the field in order to end the ceremony with the singing of UT’s alma mater and a joyful rendition of “Rocky Top.”
No guests will be allowed on the field. Guests are asked to exit the building at the concourse level at Gate 10 or 21. Event staff will use standard operational practices for shelter-in-place or stadium evacuation in the event of severe weather.
Parking and Security
Graduates and their guests may park in the G10 and G5 parking garages. Graduates should enter the stadium at Gate 21A and take the ramp down to the field. Guests should enter the stadium at Gate 21. Tickets are required for guests regardless of age.
Doors will open 90 minutes before the beginning of each ceremony. The university’s clear bag policy will be enforced. Binoculars, cameras, and video cameras are permissible without cases. Event security staff will screen guests upon entry.
Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited in and on all university property, including in private vehicles parked or in operation on university property.
For more information on what items are allowed and prohibited in the stadium as well as security policies, visit the commencement website.
Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)