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Don Denbo
Don Denbo speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Denbo Center for Humanities and the Arts.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, celebrated the naming of the Denbo Center for Humanities and the Arts on April 2. The center is named for alumnus Don Denbo, a former Vol football star, who is dedicated to promoting an education grounded in the humanities.

Part of the College of Arts and Sciences and formerly known as the UT Humanities Center, the Denbo Center will support arts and humanities research and advocate for the essential role of the arts and humanities in the world today. The center promotes interdisciplinary public conversation and research surrounding the academic, social and cultural issues central to human development. Core initiatives of the center include residential fellowships for UT faculty and graduate students; research, travel and publication support through grants, workshops and seminars; and public arts and humanities outreach — building local, regional, national and international partnerships.

“We are proud to be renamed the Denbo Center for Humanities and the Arts and are thrilled by Mr. Denbo’s generous gift, which will allow us to continue our advocacy and support for the arts and the humanities here at UT and in our Volunteer State,” said Amy Elias, director of the center. “With a dedication to the liberal and creative arts and a lifetime spent serving others in various fields, Mr. Denbo exemplifies how the arts and humanities can connect to all fields of endeavor, inspiring everyone to a life of vibrant curiosity and learning.”

Denbo joined Elias, Chancellor Donde Plowman and graduate research assistant Michael Sutherlin in speaking at the naming ceremony. During his remarks, Denbo reinforced his commitment to helping current and future members of the UT community learn to love the benefits of a humanities-based education.

“The deep desire for current and subsequent constituencies of UT to have the benefits of the same education which grounded me in the humanities is the reason my family and I have made this commitment,” said Denbo. “The conviction that this enterprise, now the Denbo Center, will aid in that endeavor is the reward of a life committed to the basics of a classical humanities education.”

About Don Denbo

Denbo enrolled at UT in the fall of 1967. Having received a classical education, he was already proficient in reading, writing, chemistry, German and French. He could read Hebrew and Aramaic and had taken upper-level courses in Latin and calculus. Denbo set forth on his college career with one mission: to play football for the Volunteers.

During his time at UT, Denbo was an offensive guard on the football team under Coach Doug Dickey. He helped Tennessee to a 28-5-1 record, an SEC title in 1969 and a Sugar Bowl victory in 1970. A Rhodes Scholarship finalist, he was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, selected as a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete and held membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

After graduating from UT in 1971 with a degree in psychology and a minor in history, Denbo went on to earn a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics. He is a founding member of Commercial Insurance Associates, one of the nation’s largest insurance brokers.

In 2018, Denbo was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, which recognizes an outstanding alumnus/alumna of the college who has attained extraordinary distinction through a lifetime record of achievement and service.


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