A decorated 12-member class was welcomed into the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame during its Class of 2023 induction ceremony Friday night at Pratt Pavilion.
The class included baseball player Chris Burke, soccer player Ali (Christoph) Tankiewicz, administrator Joan Cronan, football player Ted Daffer (posthumous), track athlete Tianna Madison, rower Chelsea Pemberton, football player Carl Pickens, golfer Violeta Retamoza, track & field head coach Chuck Rohe, track athlete DeeDee Trotter, tennis player Caitlin Whoriskey and tennis player Chris Woodruff.
Speeches from each inductee are transcribed below, in order of appearance during Friday’s ceremony.
Men’s Tennis | 1992-93
“Thank you very much. The University of Tennessee is really what I know. My situation is kind of unique. I grew up here and went to school here. [Director of Athletics Doug Dickey] was here when I was [a Vol], and I went to high school here locally. So, to still be here after 20-something years, I’m proud of that and very humbled to be the men’s tennis coach (today). Along the way, I would really like to thank my parents. As some of you know, tennis is a very global sport, and I remember early on, my parents got a van and we drove hundreds of thousands of miles all over the United States. And the sacrifices they made to get me to play professional tennis and to be here were quite remarkable. So, mom and dad, thank you for everything that you did throughout the course of my career. I am blessed for that.
“Along the lines of tennis being global, I started to try to add up the countries that I’ve been to, and I stopped counting past 40. I have been to every continent except Antarctica, and it’s taken me to lots of places. I think the thing that I’m most proud of with my career is that I’m able to come back here. [I am] really proud of the job that we’ve done. I’ve been here five and a half years as the head coach and have taken a [program] that was ranked No. 65 (nationally) and we’re coming off back-to-back final fours, we won an SEC championship and are right in the thick of it again this year with the SEC Tournament coming up. The relationships… when we go to different places around the United States, the people that come out and support us–the ex-players… Since 1986, we have had a player from Australia (on our roster) every single year. To coach these guys and to really make an impact… tennis is a tough sport that takes these kids away from their families at a very young age. If they come here and we can help them, then that’s really what my industry is about now. I have had a lot of good opportunities, but this is what I truly love doing. I have a great and supportive spouse and five kids, so I’m pretty busy outside of this.
“Congratulations to all the inductees. I’m humbled to be associated, because you have far greater credentials than I did. It’s good to see Coach Dickey and Coach [Phillip] Fulmer. Thank you, Steve, [Hamer], Mónica [Lebrón] and Danny [White] for putting this on. The University of Tennessee… this is an outstanding time to be here, and thank you everybody for all your support. Go Vols.”
Head Coach, Men’s Track & Field| 1963-71
“It’s great to come home and see a great crowd, a lot of friends, past teammates and athletes, but it is great to see these wonderful facilities. Is this not a nice facility to do an event like this? It is certainly my privilege and honor to be nominated and accepted into the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame, but I’m here because of a lot of great athletes and track men that ran and high jumped and pole vaulted for me for many years here, and we’re very, very proud of that. I’d like all the former Tennessee track men that are here tonight–I think there are about 35 or 40–would you please stand up? We are very proud of you. Thank you.
“Our track program is really blossoming (again today). I’m very excited about the future of track at Tennessee. I met our new track coach; he’s already started out with great recruiting. You’re going to have a wonderful track team. He has a staff of 12 people coaching the track team. I am a little bit jealous, because when I was here, we started with two or three coaches, and then we worked our way up to four or five. I’ll tell you right now, Tennessee track and field is going to be at the top of the list. You will see some national champions as well. It is certainly my privilege to have coached here. We had some great years and SEC championships. To me, all the SEC was jealous of what we were doing here. It was a great experience. I had a wonderful time. The track coaches here have a lot of great memories and a lot of great friends. Thanks again for having me and giving me this honor.”
Ali (Christoph) Tankiewicz
Soccer | 2003-06
“Wow, thank you. It is absolutely surreal and amazing to be back here at UT and in this room. Obviously, there is such amazing talent in this space, but (I’ve also enjoyed) just coming back to campus. Me and my husband, my family and I, we walked around today and yesterday, just seeing all of the amazing and wonderful changes that have happened since my time here. And I have to say, there’s a lot of memories. I actually truly did love the fitness test; that was actually a very positive memory. There are also some memories that I probably should not mention up here. One of which – I will throw myself under the bus – I think this room might appreciate this, especially because Joan Cronan is here. By the way, I’m truly honored to be inducted in the same year as you, Joan. You’re a mainstay, and you’re one of the reasons that I chose Tennessee because of all the work that you did for women’s athletics. So thank you. One of my fondest memories that I did not put on this information sheet – I thought it should stay hidden. I don’t know who’s writing these notes down, but you may appreciate this, and Coach Fulmer, I’m sorry, but you may appreciate this too. After my freshman year, I had the opportunity with one of my senior teammates to hop the fence during the pregame of the football ceremony and run through the legendary T that is formed by the band, which, unbeknownst to me, cost about a million dollars in donations. So hopefully, this Hall of Fame erases that debt that I did owe to the University of Tennessee, and Joan happened to catch me on ESPN that day, and I was this close to getting kicked out, so thankfully Joan has a sense of humor, and I’m still here tonight.
“I wanted to say a huge thank you to my teammates. Soccer is a team sport and the things that I am being recognized for tonight could never have happened without the teammates that came before me and earlier during the years that I was there. So thank you to my teammates. I would of course love to say thank you to all my coaches, both in the youth, through the national team, through college. I had a wonderful, amazing set of mentors throughout my time growing up, that’s the reason I am here today.
“Of course, I cannot leave tonight without saying thank you to my parents. They have sacrificed more than I will ever understand. The time, the money, the energy, the hours and miles. Whole aspects of their life were given over so that I could continue to play a sport that I love, come here and enjoy a wonderful career. Hands down, for my parents I am forever, ever, ever grateful, so thank you. Last but not least, my husband. I didn’t know him in college, so he gets no credit for tonight. But he’s the reason that I’m here celebrating, and he’s going to kill me for saying this in public, but he’s a Major in the United States Army. It’s actually pretty cool, and he’s the reason that we came here tonight. It was no easy lift coming from Hawai’i, where we live currently, but it was absolutely worth it. So thank you for being such a great support. Go Vols, forever and ever. I’ll always be a lifelong fan. And Joe [Kirt], this team is in good hands with you, so good luck in the years to come. We will always be rooting for you. Thank you.”
Women’s Track & Field | 2004-05
“I’ve been on a lot of podiums, but this one is my favorite. I am so grateful to be here to celebrate with you all and to be celebrated, because far too often, track and field athletes, especially, grind in silence and maybe somebody runs across ESPN and there’s a track meet on and you pause for a moment to watch. Or maybe every four years you get excited about Team USA’s track team and forget that we’re still out there training in between for years and years.
“We don’t always get to choose when we’re acknowledged for our accomplishments, so I feel blessed, grateful and honored to be here tonight. But I also want to remind everyone in this room that no effort and no experience is wasted. I did first step foot on this campus in 2003 – 20 years ago as a freshman, fully expecting to do my four years, leave with my degree, but it didn’t go that way. I went pro and most people would think that’s the dream, right? Especially as athletes. But life happens and all this stuff happens but one of the things I am extremely proud of after nine global championship medals, countless Team USA accolades – I will be graduating as a Vol next month. I am reminded that there are many ways to leave a legacy. And yes, we’re here celebrating our athletic ones. But I just want to encourage everyone and inspire everyone in this room to leave your mark. We’re not going to always be celebrated. There’s not going to always be someone to drape a medal around your neck, but gosh darn it, when those moments happen, soak it up. Thank you so much for this honor.”
Football | 1949-51 (Posthumous)
Ted Daffer’s son, Bob, Bob Daffer, spoke on behalf of the Daffer family.
“Thank you. On behalf of all of my siblings sitting at table seven, I’m honored to accept this great achievement on behalf of our father. When I was first contacted by UT to speak tonight, I had no idea what value I could really add, because dad never really spoke to us kids about his career. We never knew what he did, hardly. We had some idea, but he never really spoke about it. So we wondered what in the world we could add to what you just saw. So I did all of the research and I was amazed at all the accolades that he achieved, there were even more than what we saw in the film today.
“One thing that wasn’t on the film was the fact that dad met our mother at Tennessee. She was a UT beauty. They got married when he was a junior. Unfortunately, General Neyland had a policy, if you got married as a team player, you lost your scholarship and got kicked off the team, so I’m not going to go into all the details on that story, but it’s a good one. It’s suffice to say that ultimately his scholarship was restored. He went on to be All-SEC, All-American. Tennessee, as you heard, went on to win a national championship with an undefeated season, playing Maryland in the Sugar Bowl, and in that game, the Maryland coach gave dad the highest compliment I’ve ever heard from opposing coach to a player. It was very moving.
“Dad treasured his time at Tennessee, and he loved to talk sports and anyone who came to talk football with him, he had the time to do it. After his time playing, he was involved in the quarterback club, he helped recruiting. He always wanted to make an impact on the game. Ultimately, his association with the college never seemed to go away, even later in life. We had a new neighbor move in next door to us, Doug Dickey, so my sisters used to babysit for all of these kids. Coach (Dickey), it’s good to see you again. Well, thank you for this great honor. I know dad would have loved to have been here. From growing up in Knoxville in the 1950s with the last name Daffer, everybody knew who you were, so whenever I was in groups of adults, I was always known as the son of All-American, Ted Daffer. Nowadays, a lot of people would probably not be happy about being in the shade like that, but it never bothered me, because my dad is my hero, and if he were here tonight, he would have a big grin on his face, and he would be celebrating the fact that this honor has been awarded to him as the crown jewel in his career. Thank you, Tennessee.”
Rowing | 2002-05
“I had a speech written down, and not a single person has used it yet, so I’m rising to the challenge. I just wanted to say thank you, and can you believe this class? When I first found out this was happening, I was blown away. I also thought Steve (Hamer) called the wrong person, to be honest. But to Tianna (Madison’s) point, we as rowers don’t get a lot of publicity. We also are a four-year sport, people know who we are when the Olympics are happening, and I just am so proud that we get to stand here today.
“I have a few people to thank – first, my family. Sorry, I get emotional all the time. I cry at a lot of things, so bare with me. My parents did so much for me, chasing through cow pastures to sit at regattas. All the time, all the money, all the effort that they spent. Thank you so much, we appreciate you. Ann and Grant Hansen, who were donors that became family members of mine, we love you. Thank you. The coaching staff, Lisa Glenn and the assistants that I had, thank you so much. I could not be here physically, mentally, and emotionally for all the things that we were doing. And finally, to the athletics department, Donna Thomas, Angie Boyd Keck, Joan Cronan… Your relentless passion and fight for women’s athletics means that we can stand here today. Thank you so much for all the hard work. I appreciate you all.”
Football | 1989-91
“I do not have a speech prepared, but my wife told me just to speak from my heart, so I am going to do that. First and foremost, it is an honor and pleasure to be here with the rest of the inductees. My trek started in 1989, coming here, my first year I was homesick. Every weekend, I was home; I went home one weekend, and my mother said ‘You either go down there and stay, or you come back here and go to work.’ So I decided to stay, and finally, Andy Kelly decided to talk to me and help me out with the offense so I could learn what to do. He is here tonight, one of my guests, Andy Kelly.
“I did not do this by myself, I have had a good background, I have had some good, strong people around me. My mother, I am 53-years-old, and to this day, ma, you still know best. I love you. My sister right there. My wife, we have been together 23 years now. This is a good time for me, I do not know what else to say. I am happy, I am honored. Coach [Phillip] Fulmer is here, [teammate] Lee Wood is here, [teammate] Dwayne Freeman is here, my high school friend, James, is here. My God son is here. It is very warm and welcoming here; I appreciate all the love and all the support.
“I want to give a special thanks to my dad. He could not be here, he is no longer with us. He was in the United States Marine Corps, a combat technician in Vietnam. I think that is where I get my attitude, sometimes, my strength and my drive. Again, I appreciate it. This is a big moment for me, and this is something I will be proud of for a long time. Go Vols, and thanks a lot.”
Women’s Golf | 2002-06
“It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been back to Knoxville. Being here is an explosion of emotions. The University and Knoxville have changed a lot, and even though it’s been a long time since I’ve been here, the memories are still there, each one of them. I remember my first year of college. My English wasn’t good at all–worse than it is right now. One of my first practices – I was at the range – I overheard some of my teammates saying “What are we going to do her? She won’t talk to anyone. Does she even know how to speak? And one of them replied, “It’s not like we can just send her back.” And I’m glad they didn’t. I remember laughing a little. And those were the moments that built this amazing adventure. Early workouts, late practices, long hours at the Thornton Center, tournament travels. Every moment made UT my family away from home. My teammates, my coaches, my tutors. They all taught me so many things in and out of the golf course. Now, I know that golf was just a bridge to become a better person. I couldn’t have picked a better school to grow up and to learn how to become the best student-athlete I could be.
“I want to say a special thank you to my family. All the sacrifices that they made, the time my brothers had to stay at home for me to be able to play. My mom, she has to be a mom, a caddy, an away-mom, a psychologist, a travel agent, and so many more things. They are my biggest fans out there, but what they don’t know is that I am their biggest fan. They have helped me become who I am, and they are a role model for who I want to become. Gracias, mamá. I want to thank the University of Tennessee for giving me everything I needed to be me. To be able to prepare me for life, and for giving me longtime friends that have worked by my side every step of the way. Congratulations to all my peers who are here to become part of the history of UT. It’s been an honor to be here with so many familiar faces, Joan [Cronan], Coach Judi [Pavόn]. Thank you all for being here to celebrate this honor with me. Thank you”
Women’s Tennis | 2007-10
“I had to write mine. (Speaking without notes) would’ve been a slow trainwreck no one wants to see. First off, I just want to congratulate my fellow inductees.After reading up on all of your accomplishments, I’m extremely humbled and honored to be nominated alongside you all. Congratulations for all your years of hard work.
“Pat Summitt said, ‘You win in life with people.’ And I have to say that throughout my life, I have been extremely fortunate to have great people on my side. People who have shared my same goals and aspirations and people who have believed in me. To all my coaches throughout the years who help build my foundation as a tennis player, thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with me. You pushed me every day to get one percent better and show me what hard work and discipline look like, especially to Mike and Sonia (Hahn) Patrick for recruiting me here. Even when I don’t think I ever won a match when they recruited me, so I guess they saw something good in me, but thanks for taking the chance. You allowed me to grow as a person and as a player and I’m forever grateful for that. To my teammates, thank you for your camaraderie and friendship. You pushed me to be my best and I’m grateful for all the memories and experiences that we shared on and off the court. We beat Georgia away on their Senior Day–that will forever be my highlight. I also need to thank Dr. Joe Whitney, the sports psychologist here at UT. He kept me sane. In old coach mindset, tennis is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental, and being alone on the court with all that time in between points, your mind can wander. Some good thoughts, some bad and some really dark, but like everything, you work at it and little by little over time, you see the light. And I just want to thank you for allowing me to see my true potential and allowing me to thrive in the midst of competition.
“To my family, from playing tennis in the street when I was little, uprooting half the family to Florida so I caould live out my dream. I could not have done it without any of you. You lived every win and every loss alongside me. You believed in me and when I didn’t believe in myself and brought me back to the sport I love numerous times when I quit. I would not be standing up here without you. My dad joked that he always wanted a boy to live out the Whoriskey name. He got four girls instead, so I hope having your name on the wall of the Hall of Fame will suffice.
“Lastly, we are said to ‘Give Our All’ for Tennessee.’ It’s posted above every locker room doorway. Today, I can safely say I did give my all for Tennessee, but Tennessee has given me back so much more. It brought me a job I love. My wonderful fiance, Brett, and soon a hope to start our lives together and grow our roots here. It’s given me what I think to be the greatest chapter of my life so far, and I cannot thank Tennessee enough for my past and future. Thank you.”
Women’s Track & Field | 2002-04
“”Like Tianna (Madison), I’ve been on some podiums, but…
“My entire life, I knew I wanted to be a Lady Vol. When I was 10 years old, me and my best friend, Danielle, she’s still riding with me. You’re my best friend, Danielle. We made a pact of going to the University of Tennessee. Her dad and my parents put a basketball in my hands and introduced me to sports in a way that I never recognized before and he drove us up here. Every year, we played on the practice courts in Stokely [Athletics Center], and that’s what planted the seed. That’s when I knew that I had to be a Lady Vol. I went on one school visit, Tennessee. I got letters from almost every university in the country. I was one of the top recruits for track and field and basketball. I’m telling you – I’m not kidding…one school visit, one choice, one option, only Tennessee. Right away and from that moment, I remember people always asking me, ‘Why did you have that deep passion? You didn’t live in Knoxville. Where did it come from?’ It came from the great – none other than the great – the legendary Pat Summitt. I remember watching her on TV, and she instilled in me a certain amount of characteristics that I will continue to live with for the rest of my life. She taught me I could be fearless, courageous, brave, aggressive, competitive. I can go hard, I could be a beast on the field… and still be a woman. It was those characteristics that turned me into the champion I am today.
“I also was blessed enough to be among some of the most amazing athletes in the world (while I was at Tennessee). Tianna Madison – one of the greats. I also have some of my teammates here. You can’t do anything to the best of your ability without a team and training partners. (Those teammates), the relationships I’ve cultivated here at this university, turned into lifelong relationships. My God children are here today. My niece, Terry. I want you all to follow in my footsteps here to Tennessee. Let me tell you, please always consider being a Lady Vol. Hashtag–I did that on purpose.
“Imwant to thank my coach, she couldn’t be here today. Coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, she was and is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the blessing of working with, and she’s definitely family. She still calls me and gives me coach speeches all the time and she gave me one today about coming here. She really instilled a lot of qualities in me that made me the woman that I am today.
“My dad could not be here. I know this would make him extremely proud, but my uncles have come in his place. Thank you guys. And also, I cannot end this speech without acknowledging the people that have rode with me through 13 years of professional track and field and all of my other endeavors, because I don’t stop at running. I’m always doing something, and they’ve always got to get on board. And so I thank you guys. My mom…thank you for being ride or die from top to bottom. My brother…my biggest fan in the world.
“And then, my training partners – my unofficial training partners – who I dragged out to the track with me during those holidays where it’s cold and somebody has to come out there and train with you. Thank you guys so much. One of my best friends, Elizabeth, she’s traveled literally around the world with me capturing my career, helping me to make these memories last forever. And today, I am just so blessed that my career as a Lady Vol has been something I can share with the world. Now, as an international motivational speaker, I get to tell everybody around the world that my journey started as a Lady Vol. I’m so thankful that I can say that for years to come, even after I’m gone, that will still be a big part of my story. Always a Lady Vol for life. Thank you so much.”
Baseball | 1999-2001
“Congrats to all the inductees. DeeDee (Trotter), I didn’t want to follow you, but here I am. (DeeDee was an) eight-time All-American! I’m trying to do the math–trying to figure that out. So, you know, I was driving from (my hometown of) Louisville to Knoxville. It’s about three-plus hours, so I had a lot of time to think, and I’ve been thinking a bunch. And I was going down memory lane, and the word that keeps coming to mind is ‘grateful.’ I’m grateful for parents that–I was telling my kids today–my parents let me choose Tennessee. I grew up Catholic, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Both my parents are from Indiana, and (my college choice) came down to Tennessee and Notre Dame. What parents would let their kid go to Tennessee? Like, who would do that? But my parents did. (my wife) Sara and I were telling the kids today on the drive down. If I’d have chosen Notre Dame–no disrespect to my wife; she’s the best student out there–but I don’t know if she was getting into Notre Dame. But a year later, she got into Tennessee, and we have been doing life together ever since. Twenty-five years together… 20 years married. She’s the Hall of Famer. I’m just feeling gratefulness for parents that let me choose. So, thank you, mom and dad. My brother is here and my sister wishes she could be here. I’m the baby. I’ve got the best brother and sister in the world–they’re my biggest fans. And I’m their biggest fan.
“I want to say thank you to (my Tennessee infield coach), Larry Simcox. You know, now on the other side of the journey (as a player)–(my fellow inductees) can probably relate to this–there’s are a lot of really good players. How the heck did I get here? Slim (Larry Simcox) came and saw me play at a little league municipal complex. Why did he think I was any good? Why did he offer me a scholarship? And (Tennessee) was like the perfect place for me to play. Larry and coach Rod (Delmonico) were like the perfect coaches for me to play for. You let me run. You let me swing the bat–more than I probably should have. But they never told me not to. Man… I’m thankful for that. So thanks for coming. Rod Delmonico (took the Tennessee program) to three World Series in 10 years here, and Tony (Vitello) has done an amazing job. And I’m so grateful for how great Tony’s doing, because it lets us all appreciate what Rod and Larry did. Three World Series in 10 years… that’s a big deal. They built this program into something really special. It’s great to see Tony build it back. I got one of my teammates here. Hal Bibbee is somewhere in the back. Thank you to my teammates. I’m grateful for my teammates. Grateful to go to the College World Series. Now, as somebody that sits in the (broadcast) booth in Omaha, I’m really glad I can speak from firsthand experience, and I know what that feels like to run out that tunnel and play in that event. I’m grateful for teammates that I’m still so super-close with, and so grateful to just make that run. I’m grateful for my extended family, and I’m so grateful for my kids… that they get to experience this with me. As much as I loved to play–and I loved to play–there’s no part of playing that equals being your dad.
“This place is special. I get to travel around the league and see a lot of great places. And there’s great places in this league. But nothing is quite like Rocky Top. I’m so grateful to be a part of the history of this place. Thank you Monica (Lebron) and Steve (Hamer) and Danny (White). Thank you for tonight. This has been amazing. Thank you for what you’re doing for our great university.
“I’m going to finish with this. Sara and I, we had put up on the wall in the (Tennessee team) video room: ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ And I have this feeling of gratefulness and I’m not sure what to do with it. But all I know to do is to try to pay it forward. So my prayer is that through this group of youngsters that I get to raise with my beautiful wife, that somehow we can overflow our gratefulness out into the world. So, thank you all. I’m so grateful that I get to share this with you, (Sara). And you were there for all of it. Somehow I got all those hits, and it didn’t last all that long, but somehow it did. And I’m so grateful that we get to do this together. Thank you all, and go Vols.”
Administrator | 1983-2012
“What a night. I can’t sing, otherwise I’d sing that song. But this has been absolutely wonderful. Let’s give a hand to all of these amazing inductees. I’ve had the privilege of working with every one of them. Even though Coach Rohe was here before I was, we worked together during SEC championships. I’m so honored and so privileged tonight.
“The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame has a motto that says, ‘We honor the past, we celebrate the present and we promote the future.’ That is what we have done tonight. We’ve honored the past, and we’re celebrating what’s happening right now. And then–you heard me speak a minute ago and you’ve heard all our athletes up here say it as well–we’re going forward. I love that (Tennessee is) No. 8 in the (current LEARFIELD Directors’ Cup standings). But I want to call Danny (White) one day and say, ‘Congratulations! We’re No. 1.’ And we are No. 1, the people in this room. I’m so honored to be a part of this whole thing. Coach (Doug) Dickey, would you stand up? I would like to recognize my cohort in crime.
“Thanks to all the administrators in the room and all the coaches. We smile because we get to work with people like these we’re honoring tonight. So, as we go forward, I want us to think about how special it is to be at Tennessee. How special it is to be part of a program where goals are so high. We don’t want mediocrity. We want to be the best. I loved being in athletics because we got to work with folks like this.
“I want to say thanks to my family; we’re having woman power tonight. I have my two daughters and my two granddaughters with me. I see lots of administrators (I worked with) in this room, and I just want to say thank you for helping me have the opportunity to have the best job in America. So, let’s honor the past, as we celebrate the present and promote the future. Oh, what a night! Thank you.”