T-Shirt Story Goes Viral

This fall, the internet went wild over the story of a Florida fourth grader who was teased after drawing his own UT design and pinning it to an orange T-shirt for his school’s college colors day.

The boy’s teacher posted a note on Facebook, and a variety of university offices—including the VolShop, Athletics, the Office of Communications and Marketing and the Office of Alumni Affairs—responded by sending the boy a package filled with UT shirts, hats and other branded items. Then Threds, a Knoxville-based custom apparel and promotional products company, created an official UT shirt using the boy’s design. The VolShop began selling it, with proceeds going to Stomp Out Bullying, an antibullying organization.

The public response was overwhelming. To date, more than 110,000 of the shirts have been sold. The university subsequently offered the boy honorary admission to the Class of 2032 and awarded him a four-year scholarship for tuition and fees if he decides to attend UT and meets admission requirements.


Nursing Receives Largest Gift in Its History

Ross and Sara Croley stand under an orange and white balloon arch at Neyland Stadium
Ross and Sara Croley

The UT College of Nursing has received its largest gift ever—$7.5 million—from alumna Sara Croley and her husband, Ross. About $5.5 million of the gift will support the college’s building renovation and expansion; the rest will be used to establish the Sara Rosenbalm Croley Endowed Dean’s Chair.

With a growing need to educate more nurses to meet state and national demands, the gift will pave the way for much-needed growth. The college has outgrown its current building, which is 41 years old, and has had to turn away highly qualified applicants because of a lack of space and resources. A $60 million renovation and expansion project, to be funded through a combination of donations and state funds, will more than double the size of the building. The college has set a campaign goal to raise $10 million in private support, and the Croleys have agreed to serve as campaign chairs.


Small Named Permanent VC for Diversity and Engagement

Tyvi Small painting The Rock at UT with his hand print
Tyvi Small

Tyvi Small, who began serving as the interim vice chancellor for diversity and engagement in December 2018, has now taken on the role permanently.

Small has launched a number of initiatives, including training programs for faculty and staff, a framework for academic colleges to create diversity action plans, and new and expanded speaker programs. Chancellor Donde Plowman says, “Tyvi has proven himself to be a compassionate, thoughtful and creative leader who has built strong relationships based on trust and respect across our campus and the broader community. Through his experience as a first-generation student and his various roles on campus, he understands the importance that mattering and belonging play in student success.”