Eleven seniors have been named Torchbearers, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s highest undergraduate honor.
Each member of the newest group of Torchbearers learned of their selection through a surprise visit from either Chancellor Donde Plowman or a member of her cabinet in late March. The students were surprised during a normal day on campus among their friends, peers, professors and mentors.
Since 1968, the Torchbearer — UT’s official symbol — has stood as a testament to the university’s Volunteer Creed: “One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.” Through their exemplary leadership and service, this year’s Torchbearers light the way for future generations of Volunteers.
Meet the 2023 Torchbearers
Patrick Angelaccio, of Palatine, Illinois, is pursuing a degree in social work. As a student director for Ignite, he has helped more than 500 incoming first-year students connect with other incoming and current students and facilitated experiences to promote social, personal and leadership success. Angelaccio gives campus tours to prospective Vols as a student ambassador. He is a member of the 1794 Scholars Program and the College of Social Work Honors Program. Angelaccio created “The Empathy Podcast” to provide students with a forum to share their life experiences and has volunteered 226 hours with nonprofits and community partners across the greater Knoxville area.
Jordan Brown, of Memphis, Tennessee, is majoring in psychology and sociology with a concentration in criminology and criminal justice with a minor in political science. She served as 2022-23 president of the Student Government Association and received the SGA Visionary Award. Brown is a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Board, a Jones Center for Leadership and Success ambassador and a Minority Enhancement for the University of Tennessee Scholar. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society and the 1794 Scholars Program and serves as an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Psychology.
Daniel Dassow, of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, studies English and religious studies. He has explored multiple facets of his passion for writing, serving as editor-in-chief of UT’s campus newspaper, The Daily Beacon, a tutor in the Judith Anderson Herbert Writing Center, a contributor the Phoenix Literary Arts magazine and a science writer for the highly selective Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Chemistry program. Dassow has been honored for his writing with the Department of English Undergraduate Essay Prize and awards from Appalachia Bare’s George Washington Harris Short Story Contest and the University Libraries National Novel Writing Month Short Story Contest. Dassow serves on the leadership team of Reformed University Fellowship – International and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
Pilar Garcia, of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, studies English with a minor in journalism and electronic media. Garcia serves as president of UT’s Native American Student Association, developing programming for Native American Heritage Month and generating ideas for coalition work with other student organizations. As a research assistant in the Department of English, they helped develop an exhibition and website for UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in partnership with four Native nations. Garcia is the guiding force behind Sigma Tau Delta’s Writer’s Block, a monthly event where students can read and share their poetry, short fiction and other creative pieces with fellow students. Garcia is president of the Alpha Epsilon Chi chapter of English honor society Sigma Tau Delta and a member of the 1794 Scholars Program.
Juliet Gear, of Franklin, Tennessee, studies communication studies and political science. Gear served as chief of staff for the 2022-23 Student Government Association, where she coordinates events and advocates for her peers. As a student worker with UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, she helped create the Knoxville Fellows Program, which places UT students in city and county government offices. Gear is a student fellow with the Institute of American Civics, a Leadership Knoxville Scholar and an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Political Science, and she has participated in the VOLbreaks program.
Diego Lourenco, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, studies data science and analytics. Lourenco served as president of the Multicultural Greek Council, planning community and social advocacy events that resulted in the council’s receiving the Council Impact Award for Social and Cultural Awareness at the Southeastern Greek Leadership Association Awards. He is an active member of Lambda Theta Phi Latin fraternity, where he raised over $500 for Centro Hispano de East Tennessee and other Latin American student organizations as fundraising chair. He is a Diversity Scholar and serves as a peer coach for the UT Success Academy and an undergraduate research assistant in the School of Information Sciences.
Evan Mays, of Church Hill, Tennessee, studies social work. Mays founded the Chancellor’s LGBTQ+ Student Advisory Board, which advocates for numerous reforms to campus polices in an effort to create a more accepting and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. He has held multiple leadership positions in the Student Government Association, including chair of the Senate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and director of First-Year Leadership Council. Mays is an ambassador for the Office of the Dean of Students, an Ignite team leader, and a writer and producer for The Daily Beacon.
Emily Morgan, of Maryville, Tennessee, designed her own major focusing on Appalachian regional development issues. She is an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, where she contributes to an analysis of demographic and turnover rates of superintendents in public schools across the United States as they relate to local political contention. Morgan has been involved with multiple student groups on campus including the Student Government Association, the Honors Leadership Program Leadership Council, Ignite, and the Student Basic Needs Coalition. She is a member of both the Honors Leadership Studies and College Scholars programs.
Kiki Robinson-Milloy, of Woodinville, Washington, studies neuroscience with a minor in business. She is captain of UT’s softball team. Robinson-Milloy is an active volunteer in Knoxville and beyond, serving community organizations like The Love Kitchen, the Thornton Center and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and she traveled to Belize with the VOLeaders Academy to participate in a two-week sports-based service immersion experience. During her time as a student-athlete, Robinson-Milloy has been recognized as SEC Player of the Week and an Academic All-American, and she was part of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Michael Rodriguez, of Knoxville, graduated in December 2022 with a degree in marketing. As a student, Rodriguez took on the role of inaugural vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for UT’s Interfraternity Council and helped develop the council’s DEI commitment plan, the first of its kind in the country. He was a Dean of Students Fellow and a Diversity Scholar. Rodriguez currently works as a sales representative for the Breakthru Beverage Group in South Florida as part of E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Sales Leadership Development Program.
Diba Seddighi, of Knoxville, studies global public health with an emphasis on underserved populations. As president of the Iranian Student Association, she has provided leadership and direction during the COVID-19 pandemic by working with members to develop and implement a comprehensive program of events and activities. Seddighi is an active volunteer in the Knoxville community, working with organizations such as Bridge Refugee Services, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Centro Hispano de East Tennessee. She is currently working on her senior thesis as an undergraduate researcher with the Department of Public Health and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The students will each receive a medal during the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet on May 2. The banquet is the university’s largest recognition event of the year.
Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993, email@example.com)