University of Tennessee Illuminates the Future for Freshman
The University of Tennessee has numerous beloved traditions that students and alumnae hold dear to their hearts. One of those traditions is the candlelight ceremony called Torch Night, which originated in 1925 with the freshman class. It has continued every fall since then as a tradition among the freshman.
Torch Night is held the first week of fall semester to officially declare the new freshmen as part of the student body. Thousands of students gather in the Thompson-Boling Arena on the first Friday night of the school year and seniors pass the “torch of preparation” to the new students by giving them a lit candle.
The chancellor of the university and administration lead the ceremony by talking to the nervous new students and encouraging them that the next few years at the University of Tennessee will be some of the best years of their lives. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek gives advice to students to encourage them to focus on their academics, but also to enjoy the experiences that the university has to offer by joining clubs, pursuing internships, and studying abroad.
A single lit candle starts from the seniors and is then passed along to each student lighting each candle one by one. As the seniors pass on light to the new students’ candles, the chancellor leads the students in a pledge of loyalty to the university. The booming sound echoes throughout the room asking, “Do you pledge to serve the university and society?” Roughly 4,000 freshmen respond with a triumphant, “I do.”
A new tradition was added to the class of 2014’s Torch Night; each chair inside the arena contained a sealed envelope with a tassel inside. Chancellor Cheek adds to the ceremony that he looks forward to seeing each and every student walking across the stage wearing that same tassel at graduation, and he wants them to remember the night that they got it.
The students then leave the arena in silence, carrying their lit candles along their first “Vol Walk” from Thompson-Boling Arena, down Volunteer Boulevard, and into Neyland Stadium. The students have the pleasure of running onto the field surrounded by the University of Tennessee’s marching band, Pride of the Southland, playing traditional university songs like Rocky Top. To finish off the magical night, students pose for a class picture in the shape of the “Power T” directly centered over the 50-yard line. This tradition is a great part of the University of Tennessee because it gets every student excited for his or her college career and is a memory he or she will carry the rest of their lives, especially when looking back on their college years.
Special thanks to Ellie Gaffney, University of Tennessee Knoxville student and Spring Semester UQ VIP intern, for this post.