Tuesday Traditions: The Torchbearer

The Torchbearer is the official symbol of the University of Tennessee, representing education, success and security.

Photo by Wade Rackley

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From Smokey, to the Power T, to the checkerboards, Tennessee is no stranger to tradition. However, one symbol can be rightfully called the official symbol of the university, and that is the Torchbearer.

Formally known as the Volunteer statue, it has been an integral part of the Volunteers’ identity since its inception in 1931. It was introduced after UT students and alumni held a nationwide contest to find what they deemed to be the best and most fitting sculpture for their vision.

For its first 30 years of existence, the Torchbearer was only used on Torch Night and for student awards. That changed on April 19, 1968 when the final, and current, version of the statue was revealed in Circle Park.

The Torchbearer represents three major themes: education, success and security. In its right hand, it holds the torch of enlightenment, which symbolizes education. In its left hand, it holds a globe with the image of Winged Victory, which is an ancient sculpture of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, that symbolizes success in the face of challenges. The final piece of symbolism comes from the sword that the statue wears, which represents security.

The Torchbearer has inspired UT students to be successful leaders in their own right, something it will continue to do for years to come. After all, it can claim something that Smokey and the Power T cannot.

It is the official symbol of the University of Tennessee.

Featured image by Wade Rackley

Edited by Cody McClure