It was a historic day at the University of Tennessee as Donde Plowman was formally inaugurated as our ninth chancellor and laid out her vision for the future of the university.
Since I’ve been back on Rocky Top, and especially this past weekend as we celebrated homecoming, I have met person after person who told me how their time here at UT transformed them, and about all the reasons that they still consider this place their home.
We are all here standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, those who are unafraid to challenge the conventional wisdom and to chart a new path. Now here we stand at another crucial time in our history. Our path again is not predetermined, but momentum alone will not carry us into the future that we want. We get to define what it means to be Tennessee’s flagship land-grant University for the next 225 years.
We will work together to build this vision. And whatever we decide is our best path forward, I do know this:
The University of Tennessee will be an institution of courage.
The inscription on the Torchbearer statue reads, “one that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.”
We are the volunteers. We bear the torch. We give light to others. It is in the DNA of Tennesseans to step forward in service and in leadership. Let’s give new energy to what it means to be a leader. Let’s recommit to that idea for every member of the volunteer family.
If we summon the courage to take risks in our classrooms, in our curriculum, in our research, if we summon the courage to care, to grow and learn alongside those that are different from ourselves, if we summon the courage to lead and serve like the thousands and thousands who have come before us, we will light the way for our state, for other universities, and for our world.
We will bear the torch.