By Elizabeth A. Davis
For me, this truly is the last word. My time as editor of the Tennessee Alumnus has come to a close as my family and I move to my hometown of Chattanooga and start a new chapter in our lives. The last time I left UT and Knoxville—graduation nearly 20 years ago—I had no idea I would be back on campus for anything other than an occasional visit or football game. But now, all told, I have spent most of the last two decades writing about UT in some way or another.
Most recently as editor of this magazine and in working in the university’s communications and marketing office, I have learned more about UT and better appreciated its impact and importance in our state. While I believe this magazine and all the UT communications offices do a great job of telling the UT story, there is much more to be told, and I think it’s important for alumni to be advocates and ambassadors. Sure, all of us have stories of having trouble finding a place to park, interesting roommate situations or standing in long lines for just about anything thousands of other students are trying to get. My four years as an undergraduate and the relationships formed at UT continue to impact my life.
My UT career got off to a rocky start in 1991 when my father, a University of Chattanooga alumnus, came home from work and made the preposterous suggestion that I consider UT Knoxville for college. Earlier that day, he met then-UT President Joe Johnson, who inquired about my college search and quickly recommended UT Knoxville. Growing up with an allegiance to my mother’s alma mater, a different Southeastern Conference institution with a darker orange school color, I scoffed at the idea. But I visited campus and spent the night in a residence hall with a family friend. I was immediately hooked. Dr. Johnson was right, and he has continued to have an influence on my career choices as a mentor, just as he has for many students and alumni.
While a student, I found a home as a reporter and editor of The Daily Beacon. Good news and bad news came and went, but it was the hands-on learning of putting together a daily newspaper and the friendships developed in the office that made it the best experience I had on campus. During my first week, I met another person who has had a lasting impact on my life. Jane Pope, the then-director of student publications, helped navigate my time at UT and even drove me to class when I was on crutches for a whole semester. And, just as she has for many Beacon alumni, Jane has helped me through all of the milestones of both my professional and personal life.
Some prospective students may think UT is too big and impersonal, but I can’t think of a better home for me for the last 20 years. There is a place for everyone if you are willing to look and be open to possibilities. UT and its people helped me find a niche and hone my skills of writing and editing, both as a student and a professional. Because of the opportunity I was given at UT to be editor of this magazine and because of these and other important relationships, I am able to return to Chattanooga and pursue the next step in my career.
I hope future students come to know their UT campus as a second home. After all, I have found that home is not a place you leave; it’s a place you take with you.
Elizabeth A. Davis (Knoxville ’96), a former reporter for The Associated Press, covered UT sports for seven years before joining the UT communications staff in 2007.