Skip to main content
Chancellor Donde Plowman with the 2023 Torchbearers at the Chancellor's Honors Banquet.

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, gathered this week to celebrate academic and professional honors during the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet and Academic Honors Banquet. The awards highlight individuals embodying the Volunteer spirit through extraordinary research and creative activity, impactful contributions to campus life and leadership and service to the university and beyond.

“Every year, we take the time to celebrate some of our exceptional students, faculty and staff—those who embody the Volunteer spirit,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “When we say ‘It Takes A Volunteer,’ what we mean is that it takes people like these exceptional Vols who are willing to step forward and use their talents to make a meaningful difference—in their academic fields, on our campus and throughout our community. I am so proud of each of them and their accomplishments.”

2023 Torchbearers

Eleven seniors were awarded the university’s highest undergraduate student honor, the Torchbearer, for their academic achievement, leadership, and outstanding service.

They are Patrick Angelaccio, of Palatine, Illinois, pursuing a degree in social work; Jordan Brown, of Memphis, Tennessee, majoring in psychology and sociology with a concentration in criminology and criminal justice with a minor in political science; Daniel Dassow, of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, studying English and religious studies; Pilar Garcia, of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, majoring in English with a minor in journalism and electronic media; Juliet Gear, of Franklin, Tennessee, studying communication studies and political science; Diego Lourenco, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, pursuing a degree in data science and analytics; Evan Mays, of Church Hill, Tennessee, studying social work; Emily Morgan, of Maryville, Tennessee, designed her own major focusing on Appalachian regional development issues; Kiki Robinson-Milloy, of Woodinville, Washington, studying neuroscience with a minor in business; Michael Rodriguez, of Knoxville, Tennessee, graduated in December 2022 with a degree in marketing; and Diba Seddighi, of Knoxville, Tennessee, studying global public health with an emphasis on underserved populations.

The first Torchbearers were awarded in 1931. Since then, there have been more than 700 recipients.

“The faculty, staff, and students we honored represent the great work that happens every day at UT,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “Their dedication to the success of UT’s mission inspires us all, and their work provides lasting benefits on our campus, in our communities, and around the world.”

Top Faculty Awards

Nan Gaylord, Macebearer

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

Nan GaylordNan Gaylord, professor and associate dean of practice and global affairs in the College of Nursing, has served the university for 36 years, rising from clinical instructor to her current role. She helped found the college’s Vine School Health Center in 1995 with a goal of increasing access to health care and improving the overall health and wellness of Knox County children. The center has since expanded to serve 10 additional schools in Knox County through direct care and telehealth services. Gaylord continues to serve as a senior pediatric nurse practitioner and provides administrative oversight of the center’s accreditation and funding.

“Over the last 36 years, Nan Gaylord has demonstrated exemplary service to the university, its students, this community, the state and the world,” said College of Nursing Dean Victoria Niederhauser. “Her impact has been monumental. Through her tireless work providing quality care, creating community partnerships and mentoring future nurses, she has embodied the essence of what is means to be a true Volunteer and Vol nurse.”

Elbio Dagotto, Alexander Prize

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

Dagotto.jpgElbio Dagotto is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Distinguished Scientist at Oak Ridge National Lab’s Materials Science and Technology Division. His research is on magnetic and superconducting properties of materials, particularly employing computational techniques. Dagotto received the Adler Award for Materials Physics of the American Physical Society. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“As a Volunteer, I have the honor of being faculty in UT’s Department of Physics and living in the wonderful state of Tennessee,” said Dagotto. “Daily, I explore the surprising unique properties of new materials at the atomic level, which I study thanks to the UT computational resources, the proximity to ORNL and my many collaborators. The excellent undergraduate students in my class can take advantage and be inspired by such a unique scientific environment, with growing international visibility.”

Wendy Bach, Jefferson Prize

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

Wendy Bach is a professor in the College of Law and a nationally recognized expert in both clinical legal education and poverty law. She has been with the university since 2010. Bach has dedicated her career to representing children and families in poor communities in a variety of legal settings. Her scholarship focuses on the interaction between systems of support and care and systems of punishment in poor communities.

“The University of Tennessee College of Law is a unique institution among law schools,” said Bach. “The faculty and administration at the college have thought long and hard about what it takes to support faculty as they seek to be both strong clinical teachers and deeply engaged scholars. The job I have been lucky enough to have reflects this careful thought and dedication, and it is those structures and commitments that have enabled me to do the work that this prize honors.”

Erin Hardin, L. R. Hesler Award

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

Hardin.jpgErin Hardin is a professor, associate department head and director of undergraduate studies in psychology. An award-winning teacher, she has served in several campus-wide and national leadership roles related to undergraduate education and student success. In addition to research on the scholarship of teaching and learning, Hardin’s research program works to understand cultural influences to reduce systemic barriers to career development.

“In the 10 years I have been at UT, I have been so impressed by the passionate teaching, important scholarship, and meaningful service I’ve seen my colleagues model,” said Hardin. “Faculty here are empowered to pursue their passions and make the community better. It is a place where I don’t have to choose between being a committed teacher or a productive scholar, and where I can do both while working with and learning from other faculty, staff and students equally committed to fostering positive change.”

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


Lindsey McBee (865-974-6375,