A history lesson from University of Tennessee tour guides

University of Tennessee student tour guides teach a history lesson with campus landmarks.
University of Tennessee student tour guides teach a history lesson with campus landmarks.
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 2:10 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2022 at 3:14 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - University of Tennessee student tour guides taught WVLT News anchor Brittany Tarwater a history lesson on campus landmarks.

Ahead of the Vols’ season-opening football game, UT seniors and tour guides John Boshers and Paige Phifer took a deeper look into the meaning of special places on campus.

The Torchbearer

“The Torchbearer is the academic mascot on campus. He has a creed that saysOne that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others,’” said Phifer.

Its torch, which bears a flame that never extinguishes, is a symbol of knowledge and enlightenment, according to the University’s website.

“It has gone out twice in its existence,” added Boshers. “The first was during the gas crisis in the 1970s when it was too expensive to keep it up and running. The second was when an Alabama fan put a pumpkin on top filled with fireworks. It exploded the arm and shot it across campus to the HSS Plaza. If anyone finds the arm, the rumor is you get free tuition.”

The Torchbearer is more than a photogenic site on campus. As U.T.’s official symbol, the statue has appeared in images on yearbooks, class rings, and commencement programs for decades. Being named a Torchbearer is among the greatest achievements for graduating seniors at the university.

Campus Seal

The campus seal is located on the flooring in the Pedestrian Plaza.

“A fun tradition on campus that we have for the seal is that you don’t step on it as an undergraduate student,” said Boshers. “The idea is that if you step on it you will not graduate in four years.”

Smokey Statues

There are ten Smokey statues located across campus, one representing each Smokey mascot.

“In 2019 they added all these statues and they didn’t announce it to anybody. It was actually during exam week so students would come to put money at the feet of the Smokey statues for good luck,” said Boshers.

The Hill

The University of Tennessee was founded on The Hill in 1794. It is home to Ayers Hall and the university’s college, South College.

“Right under the analog clock is where one of our biggest traditions come from,” said Phifer, referring to a checkerboard pattern on the top of Ayers Hall. “Before Neyland Stadium grew as big and beautiful as it is now, Coach General Neyland could see that at the end of the football field and told his players to ‘charge the checkerboard and run for six.’ As the stadium began to rise up Coach Doug Dickey decided he would implement the checkerboard into the stadium.”