1919 – 1934
Harcourt Morgan Presidency
A Canadian who made great contributions to agriculture in the US South, Harcourt A. Morgan’s research at Louisiana State University helped turn the fortunes of cotton farmers. It also caught the attention of UT President Brown Ayres. Morgan came to UT to head the Agricultural Experiment Station, then he became dean of the College of Agriculture, the 13th president of UT in 1919, and a board member for the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. Despite the Great Depression, UT added an engineering building, two women’s dormitories, Cherokee Farm, land along Cumberland Avenue, and Shields-Watkins Football Field during Morgan’s administration. Morgan resigned as UT president in 1934 so he could remain on the TVA board, eventually becoming its chairman. Morgan died in 1950, a little more than three years after he retired from TVA.
Ayres Hall Completed
Ayres Hall, a four-story brick and limestone structure completed on the summit of the Hill in 1921, is UT’s most recognized academic building. It took the place of West College, Old College, and East College, which had served as the university’s principal buildings for more than a century. Ayres Hall is named for UT’s 12th president, Brown Ayres, who helped plan its construction using UT’s first $1 million appropriation from the state of Tennessee. The construction project still lacked funds, however, and some elements of the original design such as the clock faces on the bell tower, a plaza on the north side of the building, and a wing on the southeast side of the building were omitted. In 1950, Chi Omega Sorority gave UT the first set of Westminster Chimes to sound from the bell tower in honor of their 50th anniversary on campus. The chimes ceased to function in 1980, and the components were stolen in 1982. The Class of 1991 replaced the chimes as their senior gift. Although an elevator was installed in 1983 and a few other alterations were made to Ayres Hall, the building gradually deteriorated. Eventually the fourth floor was closed due to safety concerns. In 2008, Ayres Hall closed for a $23 million renovation project. The building reopened in 2010 with a north-side plaza, clock faces on the bell tower, updated flooring and fixtures, new energy efficient windows and lights, a new HVAC system, and additional elevators. The renovation maintained the original grandeur of the building and preserved many original construction materials. It also enhanced the building’s energy efficiency, resulting in a LEED Silver certification by the US Green Building Council. Ayres Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. The checkerboard pattern on Ayres Hall has inspired many other UT checkerboard designs.
Shields-Watkins Football Field Completed
In 1919 and 1920, UT trustee Colonel W. S. Shields, who was president of City National Bank, paid off the purchase of land for a new athletic field, and UT agreed to get the field ready. About 700-800 students and faculty volunteered over two days in March 1921 to level the playing surface, install drainage tiles, and complete construction of the field. It was called Shields-Watkins Field in honor of the donor and his wife, Alice Watkins-Shields. The Vols played their first football game there on September 24, 1921, defeating the Emory and Henry Wasps 27-0. The original west stands that were transformed into Neyland Stadium were also completed in 1921 and seated 3,200 people. Shields-Watkins Field, which originally included the track and space for baseball games, was UT’s first regulation football field. The Vols played their earliest games off campus at Baldwin Park and Chilhowee Park. Games began on campus in 1908 at Wait Field, UT’s first athletic field, located near Cumberland Avenue and Phillip Fulmer Way.
Supreme Court Justice Edward Terry Sanford
From the time he became an associate justice of the US Supreme Court in 1923, alumnus Edward Terry Sanford authored 130 opinions before his death in 1930. Prior to his appointment, Sanford had served as a special federal prosecutor, an assistant attorney general, and a Tennessee district judge. He also served 19 years as a law school lecturer at UT and 36 years as a university trustee.
Pulitzer Prize Winner Owen Davis
Although he was once nicknamed the “king of the melodramas,” alumnus Owen Davis won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for a serious drama called Icebound. He was later elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Authors League of America, and became the first president of the Dramatists Guild. During the remainder of his life, Davis authored over 100 additional plays and also became a screenwriter.
Freshman Pledge Ceremony
The first Torch Night, called the Freshman Pledge Ceremony, was held on October 9, 1925. It was renamed Freshman Torch Night in 1929. Vic Davis, secretary of the Alumni Association; Ralph Frost, head of the campus YMCA, and students Bob and Warren Kennerly instituted the ceremony, which was patterned after a candlelight ceremony for seniors at the University of South Carolina. Freshmen lined up at the Gym (where Alumni Memorial Building stands now) and, in response to bugle calls from Ayres Tower, marched up the Hill to the steps of Ayres Hall, in two single lines from the east and west sides. The freshmen gave a yell for the sophomores and one for the juniors as they made their way to the steps of Ayres. Candles were passed out as they came up the stairs in front of Ayres. The ceremony included a dedicatory prayer and the playing of Taps in memory of the university’s dead. A chosen senior representative then passed the Torch of Preparation to a designated freshman, signifying the inclusion of the freshmen in the student body. The freshmen then chanted the UT Pledge in unison. “Standing beneath the shadows of this tower, and in the presence of the student body here assembled, I pledge my allegiance to the school of my choice, the University of Tennessee, and to the ideals for which she so nobly stands. My prayer is that I may so conduct myself that Tennessee will be proud to call me her own.” The freshmen then lit their candles and walked down the Hill in silence.
Jessie Harris Became Home Economics Director
Jessie W. Harris became the director of what was then known as the School of Home Economics under the College of Agriculture in 1925. She became the first female dean of a college on the Knoxville campus when Home Economics became its own college in 1957. The college, which was renamed the College of Human Ecology in 1985, merged with the College of Education in 1987 and was renamed the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences in 2002.
1926 – 1952
Head Football Coach Robert Neyland “The General”
Before he transformed the Tennessee football program, Robert Reese Neyland was a superb student–athlete in the Army. He won 35 games (20 consecutive) as a baseball pitcher, played starting end on the Cadets’ 1914 national championship football team, and won the academy’s heavyweight boxing championship his final three years. In 1925, Neyland was serving as UT’s assistant football coach and an ROTC instructor who was also a major in the Army when he was named head coach. His only piece of instruction was to beat Vanderbilt since the Commodores began trouncing the Vols in 1920. It took three years, but Neyland delivered on that win and many more. He developed one of the most efficient single-wing offenses in the country, complemented by an unyielding defense. Of the 216 games he coached, the Vols shut out their opponents 112 times. In fact, from 1938 to 1940, his teams recorded 17 consecutive regular season shutouts. Neyland’s teams eventually won four national championships and compiled an overall record of 173 wins, 31 losses, and 12 ties. During World War II, Neyland left his coaching duties and returned to active service, eventually earning a promotion to brigadier general. After the war ended and Neyland resumed coaching at UT in 1946, he was always known as “the General.” Although health issues forced Neyland to step down from coaching six years later, he served as UT athletic director for a decade and helped design the stadium. The UT trustees voted to name Neyland Stadium after him about a month before his death in 1962, and UT dedicated a statue of him there in 2010 that displays his seven game maxims.
Aloha Oe Began
The first Aloha Oe ceremony was held on May 17, 1926 with a band and a muddy tug-of-war. It evolved into a solemn companion event to Torch Night and by 1935, senior women in white dresses and senior men in suits marched through Grecian columns installed on Shields-Watkins Field for the ceremony. Initially, a senior toga was given to the outstanding junior. Starting in 1937, the outstanding junior was proclaimed “Volunteer of the Year” and a small model of the Volunteer Statue replaced the toga. Each senior class member was then given a lighted candle, the Torch of Service, which signified a pledge to serve UT and their community as responsible and loyal adults. The seniors proceeded up the side of the hill where they formed a T and extinguished their candles in unison to bid farewell to their alma mater. Aloha Oe was set aside in 1967 and revived in 1994.
Rhodes Scholar William Everett Derryberry
An alumnus with a perfect academic record who also played on the football and tennis teams and served as director of the University Glee Club, William Everett Derryberry became the university’s fourth Rhodes Scholar in 1928. During the 1930s, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature at the University of Oxford and captained a tennis team. After teaching at Burritt College, Derryberry became a department head and football coach at UT Junior College at Martin, and then he was appointed to a similar position at Murray State University. Derryberry eventually rose to serve as president of Tennessee Polytechnic Institute (later Tennessee Tech) from 1940 to 1974, overseeing its largest period of growth to that time.
Freshman Torch Night
After the name of the Freshman Pledge Ceremony changed to Freshman Torch Night in 1929, freshmen would gather “in answer to bugle calls from Ayres Tower.” Led by their band and carrying torches, they marched to the front entrance of campus and gave a yell for the sophomores. Then they walked part way up the Hill and gave a yell for the juniors. Finally, they presented themselves to the seniors in front of Ayres Hall. The freshmen took an oath of loyalty and pledged allegiance to UT. A chosen senior representative passed the Torch of Preparation to a designated freshman, signifying the formal inclusion of the freshman class in the student body. Tradition also dictated that freshmen stay silent while leaving the ceremony.
Carnicus began at UT in 1929 when the All Campus Events Committee combined the carnival and the circus into one activity. George Abernathy, a member of the All Students’ Club, coined the name. The celebration ended with the crowning of the first Carnicus Queen Pauline Buster. As Carnicus evolved over the years, more emphasis was placed on skit competitions, eliminating the parades, dances, and crowning of the queen.
Volunteer Symbol and Volunteer Creed Adopted
By 1932, UT had adopted the Volunteer Creed—“One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others”—and the university’s official symbol—a man holding a torch high in his right hand and the Goddess of Victory in his left hand. Colloquially called the Torchbearer, the symbol—whose design was the winner of a sculpture contest—is also the name of the highest student honor conferred by UT as well as the name of our university publication.
1934 – 1946
James Hoskins Presidency
James Dickason Hoskins held three UT degrees and had served in numerous administrative roles including dean of the College of Liberal Arts when he became UT’s 14th president. Under his leadership, the university successfully weathered the Great Depression and World War II to see student enrollment increase by the thousands. Hoskins retired as president emeritus in 1946 after more than 40 years of service at his alma mater, but he kept an office on campus where he worked on a history of UT. Hoskins Library was completed in 1931 and named after him in 1950.
First Dean of the Graduate School
Fred C. Smith was appointed the first dean of the UT Graduate School and academic dean of the university in 1936 by President James Hoskins. Smith, who held six degrees including an LLD and an EdD, organized and defined the university’s graduate degree requirements and programs. After he was promoted to UT vice president, Smith appointed the second dean of the Graduate School, Eugene A. Waters, in 1948.
First Football National Championship
In 1938, the Vols football team won its first national championship under head coach Robert Neyland. The Vols went 10–0 in the regular season and then shut out unbeaten Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 17–0, snapping the Sooners’ 14-game win streak. Tennessee added more national championships under Neyland in 1940, 1950, and 1951, as well as championships in 1967 and 1998.
University of Tennessee Press Established
The board of trustees established the University of Tennessee Press as a scholarly publisher in 1940. The press was mandated to stimulate scholarly research in many fields; to channel the studies to a large readership; and to extend UT’s regional leadership by publishing worthy projects about the South, including those by non-university authors.
Harbrace College Handbook First Published
John C. Hodges, head of the English Department and namesake of Hodges Library, produced the first Harbrace College Handbook in 1941. It became one of the best-known and most-purchased writing and grammar guides published in the United States. Hodges was a scholar of English literature and a professor at UT for 41 years.
1941 – 1945
UT during World War II
Thousands of students, faculty, and alumni served in World War II from 1941 to 1945, although it is impossible to determine exactly how many. Tennessee Alumnus calculated in the winter of 1945 that 6,826 men and women had served in one or the other branches of the armed forces. Whether this included women other than nurses is unknown, although UT alumnae were in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the WAVES—the Navy’s counterpart—and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Other women served with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots and the Red Cross. President James Hoskins established a defense council made up of administrators to coordinate the many war-related programs on campus, including training for thousands of military personnel and civilians. His biennial report of 1947 estimated that 8,000 alumni had served in the armed forces.
UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Collaboration Began
UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory forged a collaboration during World War II and continued afterward. In 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers established the town of Oak Ridge as the home of the Clinton Engineer Works (CEW, later renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory). During the Manhattan Project, CEW produced enriched uranium used in the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. A number of UT faculty were involved with the Manhattan Project in a variety of ways. Some taught courses in a safety program organized in the summer of 1943 at UT for training Manhattan Project personnel; some continued to serve in this capacity when a separate school for that purpose was established at Oak Ridge. Among the faculty who were granted leave or who resigned to work at the Clinton Engineer Works, were four engineering professors: Julian R. Fleming, Francis R. O’Brien, Clayton R. Plummer, and Elwood D. Shipley; two engineering instructors: Ernest C. Holdredge and Charles L. Segaser; and a physics instructor: E.T. Jurney. Just what specific roles these faculty members played in the making of the atomic bomb is unknown. After the war ended, the UT Board of Trustees responded to the increased enrollment of veterans and Oak Ridge workers who had interrupted their graduate studies by offering new PhD programs in chemistry, physics, and English. UT established a program to teach graduate courses at the Knoxville campus and in Oak Ridge. In 1982, the two institutions formed the Science Alliance, a formal organization that linked UT science operations and ORNL. In 2006, UT and ORNL established the Governor’s Chair Program which brings exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to Tennessee.
UT and Arrowmont
The Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and UT’s College of Home Economics collaborated in 1945 to create a summer crafts workshop known as Arrowmont Shop. Marian Heard, who brought a related arts and crafts program to the college in 1936, headed the summer program until her retirement in 1977. The workshops were a success, enrollment increased and attracted students and faculty worldwide. In 1967, the name was changed to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and provisions were made to build a new studio complex. Arrowmont is now an internationally recognized visual art education center.
GI Bill Increases Enrollment
Three hundred trailers placed on the Hill and along Kingston Pike in Knoxville in 1946 helped house the surge of incoming World War II veterans who enrolled as students at UT. Many were aided by the GI Bill, a nickname for legislation which granted stipends covering tuition and expenses for veterans who attended college or trade schools. UT had such a surge of students—7,300 for fall quarter—that new freshmen and sophomores were barred for a quarter and out-of-state applicants were barred for a longer time.
1946 – 1959
Cloide E. “Charlie” Brehm Presidency
1947 – 1976
David Van Vactor and the School of Music
In a collaboration between the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the College of Liberal Arts, Dean Alvin Nielsen brought conductor, composer, and musician David Van Vactor to conduct KSO and found UT’s Fine Arts Department. Van Vactor remained with the KSO for 25 years and taught with what is now UT’s School of Music in what became the College of Arts and Sciences until 1976.
WUOT First Noncommercial Educational Radio Station in Tennessee
On October 29, 1949, radio station WUOT began broadcasting from the basement of Ayres Hall. The 3,000-watt station aired five hours of classical music and eclectic educational programming Monday through Friday. WUOT was backed with a $14,000 university-provided budget and had two full-time employees. Student Government Association president and future US Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. was instrumental in starting the radio station.
Third Football National Championship
In 1950, the Vols football team won its third national championship under “the General” head coach Robert Neyland. The Vols’ only loss that season was in the second game, a 7–0 upset at Mississippi State. The Vols handed No. 3 Kentucky its only loss and defeated No. 3 Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic to finish 11–1.
Fourth Football National Championship
In 1951, the Vols football team won its fourth national championship, and the second of back-to-back championships, under “the General” head coach Robert Neyland. The Vols’ 27-13 win over Alabama on the third Saturday in October was the first ever nationally televised game for both teams. After shutting out five opponents in the regular season, Tennessee lost to No. 3 Maryland in the Sugar Bowl and finished the season 11-1.