UT Martin eternal flame ‘burns’ once again

The University of Tennessee at Martin’s eternal flame burned brightly just outside of the Paul Meek Library from 1986 until the flame was extinguished sometime around 2000. The torch and accessories were set aside but have found a new home thanks to several supporters. A Nov. 28 ceremony celebrated placement of a ceramic flame atop the torch, which is now permanently displayed on the library’s second floor.

Larry Holder, UT Martin senior developer and database administrator; Dr. Charley Deal, UT Martin vice chancellor for university advancement; Karen Elmore, Paul Meek Library senior assistant; and Tim Nipp, engineering department chair and former UT Martin Physical Plant director, all played a role in redesigning and coordinating the eternal flame’s return. Dr. Nick Dunagan, UT Martin chancellor at the time, authorized the monument’s recreation. David McBeth, retired UT Martin professor of visual and theatre arts, was the university’s clear choice when it came time to decide who should recreate the ceramic flame.

“I thought, ‘there is nobody else in the world who can do it (recreate the flame) besides David McBeth,’” Holder said. McBeth, who retired recently after 30 years of service in the university’s department of visual and theatre arts, was on hand to add the flame to the display.    

The original eternal flame was lighted during the 1986 UT Martin homecoming by then university Chancellor Margaret Perry and the late 8th District Congressmen Ed Jones, a UT Martin alumnus. The flame was designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the UT National Alumni Association.

Dr. Keith Carver, UT Martin chancellor, participated in the “relighting” ceremony and spoke to guests about the importance of tradition at UT Martin. Carver likened the eternal flame’s symbolism to the university’s ongoing mission of educating students. “That’s what we do that’s eternal,” he said.                              

For more information about the UT Martin eternal flame, contact Holder at larry.holder@utm.edu. A history of the eternal flame, including historic and current photos, is also available at www.utm.edu/staff/lholder/eternalflame.

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