Lighting the Way through 2020. A Year in Review

Category: News

Nearly a year ago, Vols around the world rang in the new year with friends and family. We were filled with hope and excitement as we entered a new decade—the roaring twenties!No one could have anticipated the challenges this year would bring. But through it all, Vols stuck together.

We recognized our hardships and overcame adversity. We persevered together and toasted our many successes. And as we look back on 2020 and forward to 2021, we have so much to celebrate.

Here’s the best of 2020 on Rocky Top:

  1. UT was first in the SEC for producing Fulbright students.
  2. Vols were lighting the way in every corner of the globe—from teacher and physician of the year and essential workers to history-making astronauts and experts at NASA and the revolutionary inventor behind the N95 mask.
  3. When the pandemic hit, Vols came together to serve on the frontlines, to reshape campus connections and academics for virtual living, and to step up to meet new needs in their communities around the world.
  4. Through the new Student Emergency Fund, alumni and donors directly supported more than 800 students experiencing hardship due to the pandemic.
  5. VFLs including Peyton Manning (’97), Lauren Akins (’12), and Chamique Holdsclaw (’99) surprised students during their online classes, dropping into Zoom calls as part of the VFL Class Crash series.
  6. Thanks to the generosity of more than 114,000 Volunteers, the Join the Journey campaign closed as the most transformational fundraising campaign in UT’s history.
  7. We found unique ways to stay connected with one another amid the new normal. UT welcomed 2020 graduates into the alumni family in the spring with special virtual commencement ceremonies and socially distanced in-person commencement ceremonies in November. We also got creative with new virtual events, learning opportunities, and activities to support student scholarships.
  8. Transformative philanthropy made a big impact across campus, from the UT Board of Trustees naming the Zeanah Engineering Complex in honor of longtime benefactors and alumni Eric and Elaine Zeanah to the Haslam family’s $40 million gift to the Haslam College of Business.
  9. In just 24 hours, Volunteers around the world gave more than 4,500 gifts to raise over $2.5 million for Big Orange Give, surpassing this year’s goal despite the tumultuous times.
  10. UT announced the first cohort of Diversity and Engagement fellows and established a new Commission for Disabilities to raise awareness and expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities.