Torchbearer is the highest honor the university gives to its students. Recognition as a Torchbearer reminds us all that those who bear the Torch of Enlightenment shadow themselves to give light to others.
Senior Jasmine Blue of Brentwood, Tennessee, a Chancellor’s Honors student with a major in political science and a minor in English, has used her academic strengths and leadership skills to help her fellow college students as well as youth in the community. As an intern, she promoted tnAchieves, which is associated with the Tennessee Promise program, by making videos, writing a blog, and recruiting mentors for high school students. Through a service–learning class and the Emerald Youth Foundation, she tutored elementary school students in reading, math, and other classwork, and as a Leadership Knoxville Scholar, she mentored students at Dogwood Elementary School in blogging, vlogging, and news media skills. Blue has also been active in the Student Alumni Associates and other organizations. Whether she’s networking with alumni, hosting chancellor’s events, or talking to other UT students about the importance of philanthropy, Blue is always prepared, engaging, mature, and up for the challenge. “I knew college wasn’t just about me but about loving others,” she said. “I wanted to be a light on campus and was excited about pouring out myself through friendship with others, seeing the unseen and loving the unloved.”
Xavier Greer, a senior accounting major from Memphis, has an infectious personality, caring spirit, and quick wit that have made him a cornerstone of the Volunteer community. Over the course of his academic career, he has been involved with a variety of organizations dedicated to student success. In his role as an orientation leader, Greer tries to help individual students find their niche. Walking around campus, you may hear him shout, “Oh, there’s one of my orientees!” when he sees a student he helped settle in on campus. As a scholar, Greer is a member of the Haslam College of Business’s Global Leadership Scholars Program. Due to his scholastic achievements he has secured several internships, most recently with Ernst & Young, where he will begin working full time after he graduates. Greer is currently president of Kappa Alpha Psi and a member of Minority Enhancement for UT. He is also involved with SGA as a senator representing the Haslam College of Business and is a member of Student Alumni Associates and Leadership Knoxville Scholars.
Senior Jack Larimer, a Haslam scholar double majoring in economics and political science, isn’t a teacher by major or trade but has a deep commitment to helping underprivileged youth. Through the Knoxville Leadership Foundation, Larimer, alongside fellow Torchbearer Xavier Greer, initiated an after-school leadership and development program called Boys 2 Leaders to provide positive role models for underprivileged boys from high-risk environments. The boys were at first more interested in mocking Larimer than listening to him. But Larimer persevered, and now they have confidence and dreams of finishing high school—and even attending college. What’s more, they look up to him as a big brother. Larimer has not only held the torch to shed light on the opportunities available to these boys, he has also linked arms and shown them they are loved and valued. Larimer’s research seeks to help kids in similar positions. His undergraduate thesis is on the long-term benefits of university-assisted community schools. Larimer is using statistical analysis to show, year by year, how these schools set students up for success in higher education and enrich the surrounding community. Larimer, from Brentwood, Tennessee, has been involved with numerous campus groups including Student Alumni Associates, Leadership Knoxville Scholars, Emerging Leaders, and the Student Government Association.
Elizabeth Longmire, a senior in journalism and electronic media from Corryton, Tennessee, is “a leader—plain and simple,” as one of her nominators said. As Panhellenic president, Longmire led 3,000 student members. Learning to work with the many different personalities, issues, and expectations in such a group can be a daunting task. Longmire excelled in the role, using her position and platform to advocate for and speak on behalf of the campus Greek community and keeping up to date on national trends and events that could affect the university and Greek community. She was often called upon to participate in high-level conversations, and she had the courage and integrity to make needed changes within the Panhellenic community to promote student safety. Longmire has served in the Student Government Association, Student Alumni Associates, Jones Center for Leadership and Service, and her sorority, Delta Zeta. Her passion for UT, her dedication to being a servant leader, and her commitment to maintaining academic excellence are apparent to anyone who meets her.
Senior Maddie Stephens of Knoxville holds a commitment that, in the words of a nominator, “shines through in everything she does.” When the Rock was defaced with Nazi symbols last fall, Stephens, serving as student services director for the Student Government Association, was instrumental in developing a passionate and sensible solution that took hate speech seriously but also preserved the joyful freedom of students to paint the Rock. A Chancellor’s Honors student majoring in English and minoring in leadership studies, she has made it a priority to welcome new students to campus—whether as a Welcome Week leader, an Ignite Serves team leader, or the creator of the Guide to Torchbearer Tuesdays, helping students link their experiences on campus to the Volunteer Creed. Stephens has also taken a key role in sustainability and campus recycling efforts, including the Mug Project, Earth Day, and RecycleMania events. As a nominator wrote, her actions are testimony to her belief that “students must carry their ethical commitments with them outside the classroom and try to show the wider community—including their own parents, teachers, and political leaders—why those values matter so deeply.”
Mickayla Stogsdill, a senior in the Chancellor’s Honors Program majoring in public administration and Russian studies, is the type of student who continually approaches shared endeavors with the attitude “If not me, then who?” As a Baker Scholar and Baker Ambassador, she has actively assisted in numerous public initiatives and events. Thanks to her leadership in the planning and implementation of a voter education drive, more than 500 students registered—contributing to a record-breaking turnout. Stogsdill is also responsible for helping UT’s Debate Team become national champions. Every Thursday night, she spends at least three hours helping students learn to debate and develop skills in public speaking and oration. Her dedication, integrity, and positive attitude make Stogsdill an excellent representative of any organization in which she participates. It was for these characteristics that she was selected to provide opening remarks when the Baker Center hosted Peyton Manning for a Baker Distinguished Lecture in 2017, and why she was recently chosen from a pool of applicants to represent the center at a leadership conference hosted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. As one nominator writes, “Quite simply, Mickayla is exceptional. She is kind, humble, and hardworking. She is a self-starter and a natural leader.”
Faculty and staff members describe Knoxville native Chase Toth, a Chancellor’s Honors Program senior in chemical engineering, as a dedicated and diligent student, a compassionate and relatable leader, and someone with a Mary Poppins–like ability to find the fun in service and attract others to work with him. A student coordinator for the VOLbreaks program, an Ignite team leader and student director, and a Leadership Knoxville Scholars participant, Toth has influenced the campus and his fellow Volunteers in ways that will last a lifetime. He’s led groups of his peers on alternative break trips where they’ve engaged in hands-on direct service while exploring sustainable practices and the root causes of homelessness and poverty. Ignite Outdoors is the stellar program it is today because of his leadership and mentorship during its formative years. More than a terrific leader, Toth is a compassionate friend. His peers say he has been there for them at every turn of their UT experience. “If I can have just a fraction of the impact on this campus that I have seen Toth have during my time here, I will consider myself a successful Volunteer,” one fellow student said.