KNOXVILLE – University of Tennessee alumnus and retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning returned to his alma mater Friday to award scholarships to four incoming freshmen, including one young lady from Lebanon.
This year’s scholarship recipients are Emma Kate Hall, of Lebanon; Grace Neiman, of West Point, Neb.; Sydney Peay, of Spring Hill; and Blake Turpin, of Knoxville.
The Peyton Manning Scholarship Endowment was established in 1998 and, including this year’s four recipients, 33 students have benefited from the scholarship. It is awarded to incoming students each year on the basis of academic achievement, leadership and community service. All Peyton Manning Scholars are part of the Haslam Scholars Program, the university’s premier honors program.
“My four years here at Tennessee were very special,” Manning told the students and their families at the awards reception in the Peyton Manning Locker Room in Neyland Stadium.
Manning said he hoped the scholarships provide the recipients “with some of the same opportunities I had when I was at school here.
“Understand that this is just the beginning, and what a positive impact you will have on this great university, on the communities where you make your mark after graduation.”
In an interview before the presentation, Hall said she always wanted to be a Volunteer and was excited to meet Peyton.
“Peyton Manning is the face of UT – a true Volunteer living out the Volunteer dream,” Hall said.
Hall, the daughter of Jeff and Becky Hall, drew laughs from the crowd as she stressed how important Manning is to her family, state and university.
“Growing up in Tennessee, everybody knows the name Peyton Manning,” Hall said. “A popular phrase in my household, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, but Peyton Manning is our quarterback. And that name carries a lot of meaning, especially on this campus.”
Manning asked the students to make a note of the words on the sign above door leading from the locker room to the football field, “I will give my all for Tennessee today.”
“The responsibility of those words is not just for the football team, but for everyone associated with this great university,” Manning said. “…Let the words displayed on the sign guide you moving forward and provide special meaning for your lives.”
Hall is a graduate of Lebanon High School and plans to major in pre-medical studies. During high school, Hall was involved in student government, Future Health Professionals, the yearbook committee, Quiz Bowl, the Youth in Government Capitol conference and the National Honor Society.
Hall “has a charisma and maturity about her that draws the attention and respect of not only her teachers but of her peers as well,” one of her recommenders wrote. “Emma Kate not only exceeds expectations as a student, but also as a leader among her fellow classmates.”
Neiman is a graduate of Guardian Angles Central Catholic High School in West Point, Neb. and plans to major in anthropology. She was involved in numerous high school activities, including Quiz Bowl, concert band, speech competition, the Mid-State Conference Art Showcase and the National Honor Society. She also was the lead actress in her senior year musical.
Peay is a graduate of Summit High School in Spring Hill and plans to major in sociology. Her high school activities included the National Honor Society; the Gay Straight Alliance; the Shine Student Leadership Team with GLSEN Tennessee, a statewide group devoted to LGBTQ issues; and the National Chemistry Olympiad. She won best in show at her school art show and was a Science Week volunteer for two years.
Turpin is a graduate of Gibbs High School in Knoxville and plans to major in civil engineering. He was involved in the National Honor Society, the French Club, Student Government, Youth Leadership Knoxville and the Scholars’ Bowl. He also made the District Top 10 in the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association Math Contest.
The scholarship presentation program also included remarks by Chancellor Beverly Davenport and interim Provost John Zomchick, as well as the four recipients.
While on campus, Manning also participated in a celebration of the naming of the Carmen and Deborah Tegano Dining Hall in Stokely Hall. A gift from Manning paved the way for the naming. Carmen Tegano is a longtime associate athletics director, and his wife, Deborah, was one of Manning’s professors at the university.
Manning earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication in three years, graduating at the end of his junior year. He returned for his senior season in 1997 and led the Vols to the SEC championship that year.
Manning went on to play 18 seasons in the NFL – 14 with the Indianapolis Colts and the final four with the Denver Broncos. Considered one of the great quarterbacks of all time, he is a two-time Super Bowl champion who holds the NFL record for career touchdown passes and career passing yards. He was a five-time NFL Most Valuable Player and 14-time Pro Bowler.