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History of Honors at UT

Founder, Susan Becker, 1985

UT Professor Emerita Susan Becker began the honors program in 1985. She had no staff and typed out the program invitations on her ancient Royal typewriter. In those days, the program accepted twenty new students, called Tennessee Scholars, each year. Dr. Becker was eventually able to hire an office assistant, Ms. Mary Ann Bright who worked with Honors until her retirement in 2014.

Whittle Scholars Program, 1990

Chris Whittle, of Whittle Communications, gave a gift to the university, which established a scholarship. Twenty top students chosen for their academics and leadership were to be named Whittle Scholars each year. They received full scholarships and a paid yearlong study abroad. The University Honors Program now welcomed forty students each year and would continue to grow in the coming years.

Honors Gets a Home, c. 1990

After running the program for about three years, Dr. Becker chose to return to the faculty and Dr. Bruce Wheeler took the reins as Program Director. He and Mary Ann were soon able to hire another staff member and move the program to its long-time home in Melrose Hall, which gave the program space for a student lounge and computer lab. Today, the offices are located in the Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Expansion, 1998

Under Director Bruce Wheeler and at the request of the university administration, the program grew and expanded to include all Chancellor’s Scholarship (Neyland, Bonham, Roddy, Holt) recipients. When Dr. Tom Broadhead assumed the Director position in 1994, the program had about 150 students. Under his leadership, the program continued to grow, in part by the addition of the Bicentennial and African-American Achiever Scholars. When Dr. Broadhead left the program in 2003, the University Honors Program had about 600 students.

Curricular Changes, 2001

Under Dr. Broadhead, more structure was instituted for the University Honors Program. Honors seminars and a capstone requirement were added and the living and learning community was created. Though the Whittle Scholars Program came to an end, due to funding loss, another program, the Oldham Scholars, began. The Oldham Scholars Program included a domestic travel

Chancellor’s Honors Program, 2006

In 2006, the University Honors Program changed its name to the Chancellor’s Honors Program. Students were required to complete a first-year honors seminar and a sophomore level honors seminar, in addition to departmental honors courses and a senior project. At this point, the program employed four full-time staff members and accepted about 200 students a year.

A Gift from the Haslams, 2008

In 2008, thanks to generous gifts from Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Jim and Natalie Haslam, the Haslam Scholars Program was started. At that time, Haslam Scholars were Chancellor’s Honors students with specialized requirements and the added benefits of research funding and a group study abroad. Since that time, the program has become completely separate from the CHP. HSP students enjoy an exclusive curriculum, a sophomore study abroad experience in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a service-learning partnership with two local community schools.

Honors Growth, c. 2010

The academic profile of UT students has dramatically increased since the addition of the HOPE Scholarship, and as a result, the academic profile of Honors students has changed. The Chancellor’s Honors Program has also continued to grow, so in 2015 under the leadership of Dr. Tim Hulsey work began on the development of new honors programs to complement what the Chancellor’s Honors and Haslam Scholars Programs offer.

Four for the Future, 2017

Beginning in Fall 2017, Honors & Scholars will welcome students into four distinct programs, designed to appeal to different sets of high-achieving students. In addition to the Chancellor’s Honors Program and the Haslam Scholars Program, students will matriculate into the Honors Leadership Program, which will focus on leadership development and experiential learning, and the 1794 Scholars Program, a two-year enrichment program

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