SGA President Adam Roddy had these words to share with the class of 2016:
"University traditions provide continuity and a sense of community for scholarship, teaching and learning ... The passing of the torch of preparation to our new students is one of our university's most valued traditions."
With ceremony and electric candles, UT's new freshman class celebrated Torch Night on August 20th in Thompson-Boling Arena. The tradition dates back to 1925, when Glen Davis established it as a procession to Ayres Hall. Although the method has changed, the freshmen still recognize the event as an important experience. "When I saw the stage, I was excited to be part of the tradition," said Amy Armendariz, freshman in psychology.
A string trio played in the corner as students filed into the arena, and Provost Susan Martin began the evening by presenting a number of awards to upperclassmen. After she had handed out the awards, Vice Chancellor for Student Life Tim Rogers came forward and introduced Chancellor Jimmy Cheek to share a few words with the students.
During move-in day, Cheek helped a few freshmen move into their dorms, and he expressed his amazement at the things they brought. "One of the students I helped had a whole bag of sunglasses," he said to the laughter of 4,200 freshmen.
"You truly are an incredible class, the best freshman class this university has ever had," Cheek said, "and I've said that the past three years." The class of 2016 continues a trend of ever-rising average ACT scores and high school GPAs, bringing with them an average ACT score of 27 and an average high school GPA of 3.89.
Chancellor Cheek challenged the freshman on three points: becoming fully engaged at the University of Tennessee, practicing civility to all, and graduating in four years.
"Now you may ask the question, 'Why are you so interested in us graduating in four years?'" Cheek said. "One of our economics professors just did a study ... the students who graduate in four years make more money than their counterparts who graduate in five, six, seven, eight, or nine," he explained.
After Cheek's speech, he encouraged the students to open envelopes underneath their seats. Inside the envelopes, the class of 2016 found tassels. Cheek said, "I hope you will keep this tassel and not lose it, and in 2016 or before, I want you to walk across the stage and shake my hand and say, 'I made it.' And I want all 4,200 of you to do that."
Cheek then introduced Roddy, who gave a short history of Torch Night before beginning the Passing of the Torch. A student representative from each college lit a candle as the students from that college stood and turned on their electronic candle.
"I felt like a part of the student body," Armendariz said.