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The Torchbearer is the highest student honor conferred by the University of Tennessee. Torchbearers are seniors who have served their alma mater with overall excellence. The Torchbearer is awarded for academic achievement and outstanding commitment to others as demonstrated by the student’s various activities and significant contributions to the university and the community. Students chosen for this award embody the Volunteer spirit, displaying initiative and service in the best interests of both the university and their fellow students. Recognition as a Torchbearer reminds all students that those who bear the torch of enlightenment shadow themselves to give light to others.

Torchbearers are selected through a two-step process: nomination from a faculty/staff member or peer and an application submitted by the applicant. The Torchbearer Selection Committee relies heavily on the information received through both of these processes.

The nomination form will ask for general contact information about the student and a reference letter outlining why this student is deserving of the award. Nominees must meet the following requirements:

  • A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.75
  • Graduation in summer or fall 2023 or anticipated graduation in spring 2024

Nominations are due on December 1. Soon after, all nominees who meet the aforementioned minimum qualifications will be emailed and encouraged to complete their application. Nominees who do not submit an application will not be considered for the award.

As part of the application, students will be expected to answer three short answer questions and submit the following:

  • Resume
  • A detailed description of participation and leadership in all activities from freshman through senior year (use template provided)
  • Two letters of reference from individuals other than the nominator
  • A current individual photograph for publication purposes (no snapshots—photos will not be shared or used in award deliberations)

History of the Torchbearer Award