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History of Honors at UT

Founded by Susan Becker, 1985

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

Whittle Scholars Program, 1990

In 1990, Chris Whittle, of Whittle Communications, gave a gift to the university that established a scholarship in his name. Each year twenty top students were awarded full scholarships for their academics and leadership. This grew the number of students that the University Honors Program welcomed each year to forty.

Honors Gets a Home, c. 1990

After three years, Dr. Becker chose to return to the faculty and the program was taken up by Dr. Bruce Wheeler. He hired additional staff and established a long-time residence in Melrose Hall, which included 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, the University Honors Program became more structured. Honors seminars and a capstone requirement were added and the living and learning community was created. Due to funding, the Whittle Scholars Program was replaced by the Oldham Scholars Program which included a domestic travel experience. The Oldham Scholars Program lasted about eight years.

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

Haslam Scholars Program began in 2008, thanks to generous gifts from Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Jim and Natalie Haslam. Created to cultivate outstanding scholars in a cohort setting, HSP allows students to enjoy an exclusive curriculum, a fully paid sophomore study abroad experience, and internship opportunities across the state of Tennessee.

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

In Fall 2017, Honors & Scholars began welcoming 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 began matriculating into the Honors Leadership Program, which focuses on leadership development and experiential learning, and the 1794 Scholars Program, a two-year enrichment program based on the Volunteer Experience.

The Year of Change, 2020

In 2020, Honors & Scholars joined the newly created Division of Student Success in March under the leadership of Vice Provost Amber Williams, welcoming a new Associate Vice Provost and Director Ron Kalafsky in July.


Dr. Pat Akos and Dr. Fran Candeo join UT to lead University Honors temporarily located in the Student Union. The Haslam Leader Scholars program focuses on Tennessee and the Chancellors Honors Program moves to a human-centered design curriculum.


The office rebrands back to University Honors and moves to the Student Union. Dr. Pat Akos leads a transformation of Chancellor’s Honors to problem-solving curriculum with dedicated honors faculty.