Ishmael Beah, UT Yearbooks, Olympic Medalists, and Other News

Ishmael Beah, UT Yearbooks, Olympic Medalists, and Other News

Ishmael Beah: Before and After

Ishmael Beah, whose book about his shocking ­experiences as a child soldier has electrified millions, has a special affinity for UT. Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, spoke on campus in 2007 and again this past October. In the interim, Beah became a member of the advisory board of the UT Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence, and Beah’s became one of the most-read books on campus. The was UT’s “Life of the Mind” selection for 2008 freshmen. Incoming students were assigned the book before enrolling and then discussed it in small groups after they came to campus.

Brian Barber, director of the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence, arranged for Beah and his former rehabilitation nurse, Alusine Kamara, to appear on campus.

“We’re very excited to have Ishmael and Alusine take such an interest in the center and in UT Knoxville. Their input into the study of children and war will give us unparalleled insights. And having them appear not just once but twice on campus is an extraordinary opportunity,” Barber said.

Time magazine called Beah “the literary-­humanitarian equivalent of a rock star” and described his book as “a breathtaking and unselfpitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out . . ..”

Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. In 1998, after recovering from his experiences in the war, Beah moved to the United States, where he graduated from Oberlin College. He lives in Brooklyn in New York City, is an active member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee, and has spoken before the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, the Council of Foreign Relations, the United Nations, and many nongovernmental organizations that deal with children affected by the war in Sierra Leone.

Old Volunteers Never Die

Indulge in fond memories, scan the names of the graduating classes, and laugh at the hairstyles. UT Knoxville alumni, students, and the general public can now access a wealth of university history as the University Libraries’ Digital Library Initiatives unveils an openly accessible online collection of Volunteer yearbooks. The collection spans the period from 1897, when the first yearbook was issued, through 2001.

Since the first Volunteer, the tradition has been carried on every year with the exception of 1918, when university activities were halted due to the events of World War I.

Yearbooks are written, edited, photographed, and designed entirely by UT students, hence they convey the unique perspectives of the student body throughout the years. The publication showcases athletics, academics, and daily student life, reflecting larger cultural and social trends in the process.
The yearbooks present a record of the university’s progress and also capture the Volunteer spirit that remains largely unchanged even today.

Visit the Volunteer yearbook collection at For questions regarding the collection content and design, contact Melanie ­Feltner-­Reichert, director of digital library initiatives, at or Paul Cummins, the programmer responsible for design of the collection interface, at

Athletes Win Olympic Gold and Silver

Five Olympic medals came home from Beijing in UT hands.

Christine Magnuson won two silver medals in swimming. Magnuson is a senior majoring in exercise science at UT Knoxville. Her medals came in the 100-meter butterfly and the 4-by-100-meter medley relay.

A trio of former Lady Vols—Candace Parker, Kara Lawson, and Tamika Catchings—earned gold as members of the U.S. women’s basketball squad. Parker (Knoxville ’08) plays for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. Lawson (Knoxville ’03) is with the Sacramento Monarchs, and Catchings (Knoxville ’05) plays for the Indiana Fever.

Sailing the QE2

In the last issue, Tennessee Alumnus featured two alumni, Stew Bystrzycki and Brad Martin—who were members of the Queen’s Room Dance Band on the Queen Elizabeth 2’s final round-the-world voyage. We asked if other alumni and friends had sailed on the famous ship.

“Yes! My husband and I had the trip of a lifetime in January 1972, when we sailed aboard the QE2 round trip from New York to Barbados. My husband’s company, ASTEC Industries, was a member of the National Asphalt Pavers Association, which chartered the entire ship for its annual convention. I celebrated my birthday on board and was treated royally by the dining room staff, including baked Alaska brought to my table by a procession of waiters. The weather was not good until we reached the Caribbean. As we rounded Cape Hatteras, the sea was so rough that the captain had to retract the stabilizers, so we were really pitching and tossing. I recall a grand piano in one of the lounges shifted all the way through double glass doors. Needless to say, there were a lot of people who didn’t go to meals for a couple of days.”
—Betty Quave (Chattanooga ’48, ’75), Chattanooga

“My wife, Nancy, and I made the Atlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City on the October 1–7, 2003, cruise after a week of theater in London. The theme for this cruise was the “Classical—Philharmonia Virtuose” cruise. We have been on every ocean and continent on the earth and have visited over 80 countries. We have also sailed on many of the world’s great rivers. Of all the ships that we have traveled on, the QE2 is certainly the most elegant ship sailing the oceans.”
—Jim Grant (Knoxville ’61), Jacksonville, Florida

“I was on the Farewell World Cruise for 90 days from New York to New York from January 13 through April 12, 2008. The dance orchestra in the Queen’s Room was full of life.”
—Donald Kay (Knoxville ’63, ’67), Columbia, South Carolina

“My husband, Don, and I sailed on the QE2 in December 2003, during what was supposed to be the ‘last regular trans-Atlantic crossing from Southampton to NYC.’ Our trip was sponsored by Grand Circle Travel. It was a marvelous experience, and I cannot imagine that any of the subsequent Cunard ships could match its excellence.”
—Anne Loy (Knoxville ’81), Knoxville


Fifty years ago, in 1959, Andrew D. Holt became president of UT. The folksy Ph.D. served until 1970, one of the university’s periods of greatest growth. Though his accomplishments were many, Holt’s public persona and personal generosity outshone them all. He was a master of the microphone, though he referred to his abilities self-deprecatingly as giving “a mediocre speech for a modest fee to an undiscriminating audience.” When the Andy Holt Tower on the Knoxville campus was dedicated in his honor in 1973, he second-guessed the decision: “Naming this magnificent tower for me is roughly equivalent to naming the Yellowstone National Park for the guy who once ate a ham sandwich at the foot of Old Faithful.” Holt died in 1987.

Speaking of Andy Holt, his former assistant Betty Davis, believed to be the university’s longest-serving employee, has ended her UT career after 67 years. Davis also served as assistant to Ed Boling, who followed Holt in the president’s office. She began work at UT in the College of Education in 1941 and worked her final day in July 2008. She officially retired in 1988, but continued as assistant to Boling, who is now a UT president emeritus. Davis holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT Knoxville.

UT Chattanooga chancellor emeritus Fred Obear and his family were honored recently for their service to the university. A permanent plaque was placed on the site of the Johnson/Obear Apartments at UTC. Following his retirement in 1997, Obear continued to work in development and external relations. When Chancellor Bill Stacy announced his departure in 2004, Obear came out of retirement to serve as interim chancellor.

Holmbergs Donate Henry Sculpture

“Sky Toucher,” a 10-foot painted aluminum sculpture by artist John Henry, began its new life on the UT Chattanooga campus last fall. This gift of outdoor sculpture, located in Lansing Court outside the UTC University Center, comes from the collection of Ruth S. and A. William Holmberg Jr.
“My work is about the public, the built environment, the urban landscape, and the notion that the strong abstract–nonobjective statement can indeed speak globally,” Henry said.

Saying the gift of art to an institution can often be a “win, win, win situation,” Henry described the donors’ “satisfaction of sharing something of value to them with a larger community.

“The recipient has the opportunity to enhance its own environment, and the work—as well as the artist—has a new opportunity for an expanded audience,” Henry said.

Henry is known internationally for large-scale public works of art found in museums; corporate, public, and private collections; and city and state collections around the country. His works are also exhibited in the public collections of several European and Asian municipalities.

He attended the University of Kentucky, the University of Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Ford Foundation grant and the Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship as he earned a BFA. Henry received an honorary doctor of arts from the University of Kentucky in 1996.