Painting the Rock Began
Most every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, individuals and groups paint the Rock with messages. The painting tradition began in 1980. At first, the Physical Plant Department was instructed to clean the Rock regularly, but by 1982 that had become a daily effort. That’s when the administration decided to let paintings stay on the Rock unless they were obscene or offensive. When the 2001 UT Master Plan was presented to students, their only opposition was to the possibility of moving the Rock from its location at Pat Head Summitt Street and Volunteer Boulevard to make room for a new parking garage. In 2009, UT prepared for construction of the new Student Health Center by having the 97.5 ton Rock moved across Volunteer Boulevard during a process that took 13 hours. The Rock was reopened at a dedication ceremony on August 18, 2009 when Chancellor Jimmy Cheek helped paint it. The summer heat was blamed six years later in 2015 when layers upon layers of paint slid off the Rock. The WUTK radio station is also named the Rock.
1980 – 1983
Smokey V in Service
Smokey V was the first Smokey not to be descended from Smokey I. He became the UT mascot at just 12 months old and served from 1980 to 1983 under head football coach Johnny Majors. One of his handlers remembered that Smokey V was so little at first his ears dragged the ground, but he learned quickly and led the Vols enthusiastically. He was hit by a car and killed in 1984.
Bill Bass Began the Body Farm
In 1981, Bill Bass had been head of the Department of Anthropology for 10 years when he built the Anthropology Research Facility—more popularly known as the Body Farm—with his graduate students. Bass’s work revolutionized forensic science—particularly for determining the time since a person’s death—and inspired several television dramas. Bass was named national professor of the year in 1985 by the Council for Support and Advancement of Education. At one time, he had trained about two-thirds of the country’s board-certified forensic anthropologists. In 1987, Bass established the Forensic Anthropology Center to manage the department’s growing expertise which includes professional training, body donations, and the Body Farm. The nation’s largest collection of contemporary human skeletons (housed at UT), the William M. Bass Forensic Anthropology Building, and the atrium of Strong Hall are named for him. Bass retired as professor emeritus in 1997.
Women’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championship
World’s Fair in Knoxville
Knoxville hosted the 1982 World’s Fair on a 73-acre, $100 million site across the street from campus. The US Pavilion hired many UT students to help fill the more than 5,000 jobs the fair created. Students also worked in several of the international pavilions along with exhibits belonging to General Electric, Ford, Coca-Cola, and Stokely-Van Camp. The UT administration offered rental space at Neyland Stadium, along with parking lots and residence halls and donated the money raised to scholarships and dormitory improvements. Neyland Stadium attracted entertainers including Bob Hope, Gene Cotton, and Johnny Cash, as well as an NFL exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
Although the first Smokey costume that resembled the bluetick coonhound himself debuted at halftime of the September 4, 1982, Vols football game against Duke University, Tennessee lost by one point, 25-24. In the 1960s and 1970s, a homemade orange-and-white Smokey costume with a UT on its belly was used.
WUTK Radio Station Founded
WUTK: The Rock—Volunteer Radio began in 1982 as a hands-on experience for students interested in broadcasting. WUTK was first known as Album 90 and played alternative rock and jazz. Starting in the late 1980s, the station began airing new music first in Knoxville, playing local and national artists from a wide variety of genres including punk, rockabilly, electronic, Americana, rap, and rock. It was the first station in Knoxville to play music by U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Crowes, and Metallica.
Joan Cronan Hired as Women’s Athletic Director
Taking over as women’s athletics director in 1983, Joan Cronan was already a familiar figure at UT. While she was Lady Vols basketball head coach from 1968 to 1970, Cronan led the team to an alternate berth in the first-ever women’s National Invitational Collegiate Basketball Tournament in 1969. As athletics director, Cronan gradually expanded the program from seven to 11 sports and helped increase annual giving to support women’s athletics from $75,000 to more than $2 million per year. During Cronan’s tenure, the Lady Vols became one of the most visible and well-respected programs in the country, amassing 10 NCAA national championship titles, 46 top five NCAA finishes, and 29 Southeastern Conference regular-season championships. After UT hired Dave Hart as its new athletic director in 2011, the men’s and women’s athletic departments merged into one. Cronan continued her service during the first half of 2012, then became a senior advisor to Hart and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek before her retirement. She now serves as women’s athletic director emeritus.
1984 – 1991
Smokey VI in Service
Despite extreme heat that sent him to the College of Veterinary Medicine after one football game, Smokey VI served UT for seven years. When the Vols hosted UCLA in 1991, the official field temperature was 106 degrees and the actual temperature on the field was even higher. Following UT’s 30-16 victory, Smokey VI was taken to the vet with breathing trouble. He received intravenous fluids, a water bath, and was treated for shock. When Smokey VI missed the Mississippi State game the next week, fans called the Sports Information Office in large numbers to inquire about him. He was listed on injured reserve until later in the season when he returned to his post. Smokey VI served from 1984 to 1991 under head coach Johnny Majors. During his tenure, the Vols won three Southeastern Conference titles. Smokey VI died of cancer on December 19, 1991.
Former President Gerald Ford Visit
Former President Gerald Ford visited UT on October 16, 1985, to participate in an MBA symposium. During his visit, Ford also gave two lectures for students and invited guests, attended two receptions and a luncheon for faculty and students, visited the athletic department, and held a news conference.
Nobel Prize Winner James Buchanan
The author of numerous books, James Buchanan was known for combining the studies of economics and political science. He earned a master’s degree from UT in 1941, served as an economics professor at UT, a department head at Florida State University and the University of Virginia, a visiting professor at UCLA, and then went to Virginia Tech to head the Center for the Study of Public Choice. When he won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1986, Buchanan had joined the faculty of George Mason University and relocated his research center there. He died in Virginia in 2013.
Second Pulitzer Prize for John Noble Wilford
Alumnus John Noble Wilford has twice won a Pulitzer Prize for his scientific reporting. His first prize In 1984 honored his reporting of science and space exploration. Wilford was honored again in 1987 as part of the reporting team that covered the space shuttle Challenger disaster. His New York Times front-page story about the first walk on the moon in 1969 is the most widely used account of the historic event. After earning his journalism degree from UT, Wilford received a master’s in political science from Syracuse University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has authored numerous books including We Reach the Moon, The Mapmakers, Mars Beckons, and The Mysterious History of Columbus. UT awarded Wilford an honorary degree in 2014.
1989 – 1992
John Quinn Chancellorship
John Quinn was dean of the faculty at Brown University when he was selected to be UT’s fourth chancellor in 1989. A renowned physicist, Quinn was internationally recognized for helping create the research specialty of two-dimensional electronic systems. Quinn was also the Willis Lincoln Chair of Excellence in UT’s Department of Physics when he retired in 2015 after 26 years at the university. He was named chancellor emeritus when he retired. Quinn died in 2018.
First Black Head Basketball Coach Wade Houston
When Wade Houston was hired to lead the Vols basketball team in 1989, he became UT’s first black head basketball coach. At the time, he was an assistant coach at the University of Louisville. His son, Allan Houston, played for him at Tennessee, finished his career as the Vols’ all-time leading scorer, and played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks.
First Black College Dean Marilyn Yarborough
Although Marilyn Yarborough became the first black college dean at UT or any major Southern law school in 1989, the legal profession was not her first career. She worked as an aerospace engineer in the 1960s for IBM and Westinghouse. After earning her law degree from UCLA in 1973, she was one of the early black law professors in the United States holding a tenure track position when she joined the University of Kansas law school faculty in 1976. After leaving UT in 1991, Yarborough held the visiting William J. Maier Jr. Chair of Law at West Virginia University, then became a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law from 1993 until her death in 2004.
First Female Vice President Sammie Lynn Puett
Alumna Sammie Lynn Puett became the first woman to hold a UT vice presidency when she was promoted to vice president for public service, continuing education, and university relations in 1989. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT and began work at the university in 1960 as a specialist with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service. Puett later became an associate professor in the School of Journalism, an executive assistant to Chancellor Jack Reese, commissioner of the Department of General Services, then commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services under Governor Lamar Alexander, and then associate vice president for university relations at UT.