The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Army ROTC Alumni Council is leading the effort to establish the UT Armed Forces Memorial on the university’s flagship campus in Knoxville. The memorial will honor the sacrifice of students, faculty, and staff from all UT System campuses who died in the line of duty while in military service to the United States from World War I to the present, whether their deaths occurred in direct combat military operations, training, or as a result of domestic or international acts of terror.
A wreath-laying ceremony to signify the initiation of this project will take place on Veterans Day.
“This memorial serves as a physical reminder and a place for people across our community to express our grief and our gratitude,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “Members of the armed forces are the ultimate example of what it means to step forward with courage.”
The design of the memorial is highlighted by a 13-ton monolithic sculpture carved of native Tennessee marble. A wall embedded with bronze medallions featuring the seal of each branch of the US Armed Forces will serve as a backdrop to the sculpture. Visitors will see the names of each of UT’s fallen heroes on the sloped surface of the sculpture.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Logan Hickman (’80) has served as the project officer for the council’s Armed Forces Memorial Committee. “The idea for this really started in 2016 when retired General John Tindall (’67) challenged us to honor UT alumni who had died in Vietnam,” said Hickman. “That same fall, I visited Texas A&M’s campus, and after seeing what they had done I just knew UT could do better. This is long overdue.”
The Armed Forces Memorial will be located on the Joe Johnson–John Ward Pedestrian Walkway in front of Brown Hall. “This is one of the most heavily traversed areas of campus,” said Bethany Morris of UT Facilities Services, who is serving as project manager. “We felt it was important that the memorial be placed in an area of campus with high visibility. Thousands will pass this each day and will be reminded of the sacrifices so many of our own made to protect and preserve our freedoms.”
Drawing on Extensive Research
The Center for Study of War and Society in UT’s College of Arts and Sciences has done extensive research to gather information on those to be honored. CSWS Program Coordinator Cynthia Tinker has been leading the research effort.
“So far we have verified 369 names, and we are finding more,” said Tinker. “We’ve combed through yearbooks, old alumni magazines as well as previous research that the UT Alumni Office and former UT Historian Milton Klein had conducted. It is a laborious process, but we cannot let the memories of these individuals slip away.”
In addition to the physical memorial, the committee hopes to build a website with photos and biographies of the individuals memorialized.
“There are so many great stories to be told,” said committee member Ben Scott (’83), who has researched the biographies of UT alumni veterans. “Each name on the memorial represents a story and a family that was changed forever.”
Announcing the Fundraising Campaign
The committee has partnered with the UT Foundation on a $130,000 campaign to fund the memorial.
“This is a passion project for our Army ROTC alumni,” said Brian Hardy, director of campus-wide advancement. “They have been the driving force of the fundraising effort to make this a reality. We have been in a silent phase of the campaign for this project and are excited to announce it to the public.”
More than $100,000 has already been committed to the $130,000 goal.
“We are so appreciative of the donors that have already stepped forward,” said Hardy. “The response has truly been tremendous.”
UT Trustee Alan Wilson (’80), a former president of the UT Alumni Board, said he is proud to join other veterans to establish a memorial to honor those Vols who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
“UT has a long, distinguished tradition of service to our country, and this memorial recognizes that legacy,” said Wilson, who attended UT on an ROTC scholarship and served as a US Army captain after graduation. He retired as president and CEO of McCormick & Company Inc. in 2016.
Geoff Freeman (’78), president of the UT Knoxville ROTC Alumni Council, said, “In the past we as a country have memorialized our veteran heroes in many ways. It is only fitting that we now take the time to single out those Vol veterans for making the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I am proud to be a part of this important endeavor and strongly encourage others to join with us to make this memorial a reality.”
The council plans to dedicate the new memorial in spring 2022. To learn more about the project, submit a name for inclusion, or support the UT Armed Forces Memorial, visit giving.utk.edu/armedforcesmemorial.
Brooks Clark (865-310-1277, firstname.lastname@example.org)