Emma Kate Hall, LHS Class of 2017 -
KNOXVILLE - An exclusive club of current and past Tennessee students welcomed new members Friday, June 16, as four incoming freshmen were awarded the Peyton Manning Scholarship at Neyland Stadium.
Manning and University Provost John Zomchick presented Emma Kate Hall of Lebanon; Grace Neiman of West Point, Neb.; Sydney Peay of Spring Hill; and Blake Turpin of Knoxville with plaques celebrating the efforts they have shown throughout their academic careers - efforts that have earned them the title of 2017 Peyton Manning Scholars. With the induction of its four newest members, the Manning Scholarship, which originated 20 years ago, has now been awarded to 33 UT Knoxville students.
"I hope this program has provided each and every recipient with an extra edge to maximize their time here at Tennessee and beyond," Manning said. "It really means a great deal to me knowing how much students appreciate the opportunity, but also to witness their progress and their successes, both personally and professionally."
The scholarship, which was sought by more than 300 applicants this year, covers nearly the full cost of tuition during the students' time at Tennessee.
According to Zomchick, the process by which the four students were selected was rigorous and thorough.
"Manning Scholars must demonstrate academic excellence through their class ranking, GPA, ACT or SAT test scores and through nomination and recommendation," Zomchick explained. "Recipients must have established appreciation for active involvement with school and community activities."
For Hall, who was student government president and a member of the National Honor Society at Lebanon High School, the award will serve as an opportunity to make a difference both on campus and in the community. However, Hall made sure to recognize how surreal it was to be honored by a Tennessee legend.
"Growing up in Tennessee, everybody knows the name Peyton Manning," she said. "A popular phrase in my house was 'the Lord is our shepherd, and Peyton Manning is our quarterback.'"
She is the daughter of Jeff and Becky Hall of Lebanon and graduated last month with the Class of 2017.
Hall plans to major in pre-medical studies. During her time at LHS, she was involved in student government, Future Health Professionals, the yearbook committee, Quiz Bowl, the Youth in Government Capitol Conference and the National Honor Society.
The tradition of the Manning Scholarship began in 1998, when Manning decided to form an endowment out of the scholarship money that came along with his on-field awards.
What started out as an annual recognition of one student has progressed to a ceremony that now features four recipients and, as Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics John Currie has observed, the relationship between Manning and the university continues to serve as a standard for returning student-athletes.
"Peyton Manning embodies the Volunteer tradition," Currie said. "The idea that this has been going on for 20 years, and he has continued to be so incredibly engaged, understanding the impact that he has on the students ... it is very special."