After Historic Fire, Tennessee Rebuilds

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Along Volunteer Boulevard on the University of Tennessee (UT) campus is a statue of a man holding a torch. It is a statue of the Torchbearer—UT’s official symbol— and it bears the university’s Volunteer Creed: “One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.”

Tennessee Gamma Emily Daves was raised watching Tennessee football on Saturdays. It’s no surprise since her family is from the Knoxville area, where the school is located, and both her dad and grandfather are alumni of the institution. But although she had walked past the statue many times and read the words of the Volunteer Creed, it did not really resonate with Emily until last year.

Tennessee is called “The Volunteer State” for all the volunteer soldiers that fought during the War of 1812, and a Volunteer – Vols for short – is the UT mascot. The Volunteer Spirit is what Emily is drawn to and loves about her University. It is the extensive community on and around the campus. It is the willingness to help others. It is the phrase that hangs around campus “Vols help Vols.” Very recently, Emily witnessed how the Volunteer Spirit is exemplified beyond campus.

In November, a fire ravaged more than 17,000 acres around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, only one hour from Knoxville. The women of Tennessee Gamma understand the rich history of Pi Beta Phi in Gatlinburg through the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School and Pi Beta Phi Elementary School. Everyone was in shock, but it did not stop the Tennessee community from figuring out how to help. Fire stations from Nashville (three and a half hours away) traveled to battle the fires. Within the chapter, donations have been made to organizations like The Red Cross, but the women continue to think of how they can help. They’re collecting school supplies for teachers who lost everything and are planning to have a sisterhood event later this year to help rebuild the area. “It has been touching to see the state come together during this difficult time,” reflects Emily.

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