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Chancellor Donde Plowman with the 2022 Torchbearers.

Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were recognized for outstanding achievements during the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet and Academic Honors Banquet this week.

“These ceremonies celebrate the best and brightest of our university,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “As the state’s flagship land-grant institution, we are committed to teaching, research, and service. The exceptional students, faculty, and staff being honored truly understand what it means to be a Volunteer—to have the courage to step forward in leadership and service. Each one of them is committed to making our campus and our community better, and their stories are inspiring.”

2022 Torchbearers

Ten seniors were recognized for their academic achievement, leadership, and outstanding service with the university’s highest student honor, the Torchbearer.

They are Ashlyn Anderson of Franklin, Tennessee, studying food security and public health nutrition through the College Scholars Program; Taylor Dempsey of Memphis, Tennessee, a migration studies major with an emphasis in Latin America through the College Scholars Program; Claire Donelan of Fairfield, Connecticut, a marketing and international business major; Savannah Hall of Memphis, a Baker Scholar who graduated in December 2021 with a degree in business administration; Simon Jolly of Knoxville, a sustainability major with a minor in economics; Tasimba Jonga of Brentwood, Tennessee, studying chemical engineering and economics; Aruha Khan of Farragut, Tennessee, dual majoring in the Chancellor’s Honors Program in biological sciences and finance with a collateral in economics; Varun Rangnekar of Atlanta, Georgia, a Haslam Scholar and Melton Scholar majoring in business analytics while on a pre-dental track; Deanna Riley of Spring Hill, Tennessee, a Haslam Scholar studying neuroscience with minors in Hispanic studies and philosophy on a pre-medical track; and Catelyn Williams of Memphis, a political science major with minors in Africana studies and sociology.

Read more about all of the students, faculty, and staff who received awards at the Academic Honors Banquet and Chancellor’s Honors Banquet.

The following received top faculty awards:

Louis J. Gross, Macebearer

Lou Gross

Macebearer is the highest faculty honor at UT and recognizes a distinguished career and commitment of service to students, to scholarship, and to society.

Louis J. Gross is a Chancellor’s Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics. He has been at UT since 1979 and is the founding director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. Since 1990 he has been a principal investigator on over $50 million in external funding.

When asked what the award meant to him, Gross said, “The colleagues and students I have collaborated with at UT have been essential to our success in building one of the world’s top programs that utilizes quantitative methods to address biological and societal problems. In addition to my research and education efforts, I have assumed many faculty leadership roles and worked with hosts of administrators to enhance academic programs across the campus.”

Anthony Mezzacappa, Alexander Prize

Anthony Mezzacappa
 The Alexander Prize honors a faculty member who is an exceptional undergraduate teacher and distinguished scholar.

Anthony Mezzacappa is the Newton W. and Wilma C. Thomas Chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and served as director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences. Before joining the university he was a corporate fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he created a world-leading supernova research program. He held postdoctoral appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his PhD and BS degrees, both in physics, at the University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.

“As a Volunteer,” said Mezzacappa, “I have the opportunity to work in a world-class physics department at a flagship state university to advance our understanding of our cosmic origins, explore the rich physics of Einstein’s theory of gravity, and probe the physics of some of nature’s elementary particles. I have the opportunity to teach, to expose our students to the beauty of physics, to provide them with opportunities to participate in what has been for me a fantastic journey, and, best of all, to change lives.”

Althea Murphy-Price, Jefferson Prize

Printmaking Volunteer Story
Althea Murphy-Price

The Jefferson Prize is awarded to a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in research and creative activity.

Althea Murphy-Price, professor in the School of Art, joined UT in 2010. Her teaching and creative research specialize in print media. Earlier recognitions include two Ellen Berry McClung Professorships in 2017 and 2021, a Chancellor’s Professional Development Award, a Senior Diversity Leadership Award, a Chancellor’s Research and Creative Achievement Award, and a Grant for Faculty Research. Murphy-Price’s work has been recognized for its unconventional approaches to the traditions of printmaking.

“Being a Vol means knowing the importance of community,” said Murphy-Price. “I have devoted much of my efforts to enhancing community experiences for underrepresented faculty and students.” In addition to participating in a number of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, Murphy-Price founded an exchange program with two historically Black universities, Fisk University and Tennessee State University. She also serves as a diversity faculty fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Erin Darby, L. R. Hesler Award

Erin Darby
Erin Darby

The L. R. Hesler Award recognizes excellence in teaching and service.

Erin Darby is an associate professor of early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies and the faculty director of undergraduate research and fellowships for the Division of Student Success. An expert in the archaeology of religion and Hebrew literature, Darby is a committed teacher and undergraduate research mentor. She has spearheaded a number of campus, community, and international initiatives including programs on cultural competency, archaeology, and religious diversity.

“UT is home to an amazing array of people who care deeply about the experiences of our students and take seriously our mandate as a land-grant institution,” said Darby. “As a result, the institution values high-impact teaching and engagement and provides resources and infrastructure to support faculty as they seek to serve our communities on campus, in Tennessee, and across the globe. None of my work would have been possible without staff, faculty, and student partners from all corners of the campus.”


Brooks Clark (, 865-974-5471)