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Fall graduates tossing their caps in the air at the end of commencement inside Thompson-Boling Arena.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, capped off the fall semester with graduate hooding and undergraduate commencement ceremonies to celebrate fall 2021 graduates. Both ceremonies took place in Thompson-Boling Arena, where proud graduates, families, friends, and mentors gathered to honor their accomplishments.

Vol for Life Inky Johnson (’07, ’09)—this year’s keynote speaker at the undergraduate ceremony—challenged graduates “to leave everything they touch better than when they found it.” He also shared words of resilience and determination.

“Life is a journey with ebbs and flows, ups and downs, successes and failures. You’ll experience them all,” Johnson said. “We had a game maxim when I was here at the University of Tennessee that still stands. And I want you to carry it forth with you on your journey: If the game or break of life goes against you, don’t let up. Put on more steam.”

Chancellor Donde Plowman thanked parents and families for their support of this year’s scholars, and she commended graduates for their hard work achieving this milestone.

“The resilience, the flexibility, the creativity you have shown over the last two years has been nothing short of inspiring. When problems arose, you found ways to solve them. When you saw classmates and friends struggling, you stepped forward,” Plowman said. “You showed your true Volunteer spirit through one of the most trying times in the history of our university—and the world.”

This fall, the university awarded approximately 1,098 undergraduate degrees and 578 graduate degrees and certificates. Three ROTC Air Force cadets and two ROTC Army cadets were commissioned during the undergraduate ceremony. Ten graduates earned gold service medallions, each completing over 225 hours of community service.

See some of the highlights from the ceremonies.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,