On a stage adorned with orange and white flowers, amongst campus leaders ranging from Student Government President Natalie Campbell to Interim President of the University of Tennessee System Randy Boyd, University of Tennessee Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman was honored with an investiture ceremony.
The event was a very formal one, with procession and recession music — the former written by music composition student Claire Terrell, the latter written by music composition student Will Eakin — as well as a presentation of academic colors, remarks by faculty and student representatives and the reading of a poem titled “Celebrating Donde Plowman, Chancellor!” written by Marilyn Kallet and read by Mary Lucal.
First, Boyd welcomed the crowd and introduced the program, explaining what would occur and the history behind the ceremony.
What followed was a moving program, with speeches that were deeply personal at times.
Campbell spoke on behalf of the undergraduate student body and, among other things, mentioned her first meeting with Chancellor Plowman and how having a female chancellor made being the ninth female student body president easier.
Dr. Anne Smith, the King and Judy Rogers Professor of Business and Head of the Department of Management, shared some fond memories of her time being Plowman’s coworker in the management department during Plowman’s first employment at UT years ago.
“I’m proud to have watched my friend and colleague rise through the ranks in Nebraska and make her way back to the University of Tennessee, back home,” Smith said.
John Compton, Chair of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, spoke later on in the program about the new chancellor.
“Her love for the Volunteer spirit is contagious … Today we lift up Chancellor Plowman, tomorrow she will be that beacon shining on top of the hallowed hill,” Compton said.
Plowman was given the Medal of Office, a medal distinguishing her role as chancellor. The golden necklace had the names of all nine chancellors engraved on it.
Plowman then gave her flagship address, a poignant speech in which she thanked her husband for his “love and support” and her children for “the joy they bring [her] everyday,” among others.
While discussing the recent Homecoming celebrations on campus, Plowman explained how quickly UT began to feel like home again after the years she had spent away from Knoxville.
“For me, the last four months have felt like coming home. It’s a bit like sitting down at a piano again after years away,” Plowman said. “Your hands know just where to go, your fingers remember the weight of the keys, you hear the melodies in your head, but it still takes a little practice to get a feel for the music again. And that’s what I’ve been doing since July, getting a feel for this campus again.”
Plowman then detailed her activities over the past few months and her hopes for the future.
During a press conference after the event, Plowman described in symbolic language what the day of the ceremony truly meant.
“It’s the official passing of the torch,” Plowman said.
Later on, Plowman detailed her plans to continue some of the activities she has engaged in during her first few months in her official role as chancellor.
“I’m going to continue to do the office hours I’ve been doing … and you know, I’ve had some of the most amazing conversations during those one on ones … ," Plowman said. "I will continue to work with the student government groups, both the graduate and undergraduate groups."