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An iconic UT landmark for more than 50 years


The University of Tennessee (UT) is a public research university located in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. It was founded in 1794 as Blount College and became the state's flagship institution in 1879.

In the early years, Blount College struggled financially and was eventually taken over by the state government, which renamed it East Tennessee College in 1807. The college continued to face financial difficulties, and in 1840 it was briefly closed due to a lack of funding.

After the Civil War, the college was reestablished and renamed the University of Tennessee in 1879. The university expanded rapidly in the early 20th century, with the construction of several new buildings and the establishment of new academic programs.

During World War II, UT played a significant role in the war effort, conducting research in areas such as radar technology and developing new weapons systems. After the war, the university continued to grow and expand, adding new academic programs and facilities.

Today, the University of Tennessee is a major research institution with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. It is organized into several colleges and schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the Haslam College of Business, the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, and the College of Engineering. UT is also home to a number of research centers and institutes, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

  • In the early years, the university struggled to attract students and faculty, and enrollment remained low. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the university began to expand and modernize, building new facilities and adding new programs.
  • One of the most significant events in UT's history occurred in 1956, when the university admitted its first African American undergraduate student, a young man named Gene Mitchell. This was a major milestone in the civil rights movement, and UT played a pioneering role in desegregating higher education in the South.
  • Over the years, UT has produced a number of notable alumni, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, former Vice President Al Gore, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, and country music superstar Kenny Chesney.
  • The university has a long tradition of excellence in athletics, particularly in football. The UT Volunteers have won six national championships and produced numerous NFL stars, including Manning, Reggie White, and Jamal Lewis.
  • In recent years, UT has faced some challenges, including declining state funding and controversies surrounding the administration. However, the university remains a vital part of Tennessee's educational and cultural landscape, and it continues to attract talented students and faculty from around the world.

Top Tourist Attractions

The University of Tennessee is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is home to many local top tourist attractions. Here are some popular ones:

  • World's Fair Park: Built for the 1982 World's Fair, this beautiful park features a 266-foot tall observation tower, a man-made lake, walking paths, and a variety of fountains and gardens.
  • Knoxville Zoo: Home to over 800 animals from around the world, the Knoxville Zoo is a popular attraction for families and animal lovers. Highlights include the African savannah exhibit, the gorilla valley, and the reptile and amphibian section.
  • Market Square: This vibrant public space is the heart of downtown Knoxville, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, and entertainment venues. It's a great place to grab a bite to eat, people-watch, or attend a festival or concert.
  • Tennessee Theatre: Built in 1928, this beautifully restored theater is one of the most iconic buildings in Knoxville. It hosts a variety of concerts, plays, and other performances throughout the year.
  • Knoxville Museum of Art: This free museum features a variety of exhibits showcasing local and regional art, as well as special exhibitions from around the world.
  • Ijams Nature Center: Located just a few miles from downtown Knoxville, this 315-acre nature center features hiking trails, a boardwalk over a wetlands area, a bird observation area, and a variety of educational programs and events.
  • Smoky Mountains National Park: Just a short drive from Knoxville, this stunning national park is home to over 800 miles of hiking trails, breathtaking mountain views, and a variety of wildlife. It's a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

The University is located in Knoxville, which is situated in the eastern part of the state of Tennessee in the United States. Knoxville is the third-largest city in Tennessee, with a population of approximately 190,000 people.

The university's main campus covers over 550 acres and is located in the heart of Knoxville, just a few miles from downtown. The campus is bounded by the Tennessee River to the south and the University of Tennessee Medical Center to the west.

Knoxville is situated in the Appalachian Mountains and is surrounded by scenic hills and valleys. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located just a short drive from Knoxville and is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, and fishing.

The city has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The average high temperature in July is around 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), while the average low temperature in January is around 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius). The University of Tennessee has several other campuses and facilities throughout the state, including the Health Science Center in Memphis, the Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville, and the Space Institute in Tullahoma.

Founding and early days

The University of Tennessee was founded in 1794 as Blount College, named after the territorial governor of the time, William Blount. The school was established in Knoxville, which was then the capital of the Southwest Territory. Blount College was the first public college chartered in the United States, outside of the original 13 colonies.

Initially, the college struggled to attract students and support from the community, as it faced competition from private schools and universities in the region. However, the school received a boost in 1807 when it was renamed East Tennessee College and placed under state control.

Throughout the 19th century, East Tennessee College continued to struggle financially, and it was briefly closed in 1840 due to lack of funds. However, it reopened a few years later and underwent a period of growth and expansion in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

During the war, the college was forced to close again, this time due to a shortage of students and faculty. However, it reopened once again in 1866, and by the late 1800s, it had become a respected institution of higher education in the region.

In 1879, the school was designated as the state's land-grant institution, and it was renamed the University of Tennessee. This designation provided much-needed funding for the university, which allowed it to expand and modernize its facilities and academic programs.

Civil rights era

The University of Tennessee played an important role in the civil rights era, particularly in the desegregation of higher education in the South. In 1956, the university admitted its first African American undergraduate student, a young man named Gene Mitchell. Mitchell was a Knoxville native who had already completed some coursework at Tennessee State University, a historically black college in Nashville.

Mitchell's admission to the University of Tennessee was not without controversy. The state's governor at the time, Frank Clement, opposed desegregation and tried to prevent Mitchell from enrolling. However, the university's administration and the courts upheld Mitchell's right to attend, and he was able to complete his degree.

In the years that followed, the university continued to admit more African American students, though progress was slow. In 1961, a group of African American students from Tennessee State University staged a sit-in at the university's cafeteria, demanding to be served. The protest was met with hostility from some white students and faculty, but it ultimately led to changes in the university's policies and practices.

The University of Tennessee also played a role in the larger civil rights movement of the 1960s. The university hosted several notable speakers and events, including a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. In addition, many of the university's faculty members and students were involved in civil rights activism both on and off campus.

Today, the University of Tennessee is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion on its campuses and in its programs. The university has several offices and programs dedicated to supporting underrepresented students and promoting equity and inclusion, and it continues to be a leader in advancing civil rights and social justice.