April 11, 2002
If you look around Knoxville
and across the state of Tennessee, for that matter, it is easy to see that this
is Big Orange Country.
Thousands of fans plan their lives around University of Tennessee sports and can't get enough Orange and White in their lives.
So what makes UT sports so addictive? Maybe it's the championship teams or the thrill of hearing more than 100,000 people screaming at once. Or maybe it's simply the joy of being part of a longstanding Tennessee tradition.
But how many times does anyone ever think about the faces that work behind the scenes to make the university's athletic department a success? It takes more than a star player, it takes support from faculty, staff, students and the community to make a team a success.
It takes support from people like Judy Constantine, who has devoted her life to the University through educational and athletic support. For Judy, like so many others, University of Tennessee sports are more than just a seasonal pastime. Volunteer sports are a way of life.
"We are lucky to have such an extraordinary network of support for our athletic department," said UT Athletics Director Doug Dickey. "Judy is one of many people who have devoted themselves to our student-athletes. She has made a difference in the lives of many student-athletes through her dedication, support and willingness to listen and help."
In addition to her years of dedication to UT's student-athletes, Constantine recently gave a donation the Athletic Department, which will be used to help fund a new $17 million Aquatic Center. The Aquatic Center is currently in the design stages, and groundbreaking ceremonies should occur in 2003.
"The donation Judy made to the aquatic center is greatly appreciated, but doesn't even begin to compare to all that she has given to this university," UT's head men's swimming coach John Trembley said. "She was at UT 32 years ago when I was a freshman on the swimming team and, now that I'm a coach, she's still playing an active role in UT athletics.
"She is what I consider the mother of the spirit of Tennessee athletics. Judy clearly represents the Volunteer spirit. Generations of student-athletes are grateful and indebted to her for her involvement and contribution."
Judy began as a student at UT and then worked in the Continuing Education Department for 42 years. She retired as the Executive Assistant to the Dean of the Continuing Education Department in 1992.
"I'm not sure how I began working with the athletes," Constantine said. "I've always loved sports, and, in fact, I was a physical education major. I began doing scheduling and became an unofficial advisor for the athletes. But really, it was more than that. I talked and listened to them when they had no one else. I became a substitute mom in many ways."
After only one year of retirement, Constantine was asked to return to the University as a volunteer to help get the Lettermen's T-Club off the ground. The T-Club is composed of all university athletes who earned a letter in a sanctioned, organized sport while at UT. For two years she volunteered and, with the assistance for the T-Club Board of Directors, helped build the membership of the club to more than 1,600. Constantine became the executive director of the T-Club in 1999.
"There is no one better suited to head up the Lettermen's Club than Judy," said Don Bosch, former varsity swimmer and former president of the T-Club. "Judy has been the den mother of UT's student-athletes for 40 years, serving as mother, counselor, academic advisor and friend to thousands of student-athletes. It's amazing to see people come back to the University after they have grown up and have families of their own, and they still turn to Judy for advice."
Constantine was made an honorary letterman in the 1990s, and helped raise money to build the Wall of Fame in 1999, which lists every person who has earned a varsity letter at UT. The T-Club Board of Directors honored Constantine's dedication by engraving her name on one of the benches adjacent to the Wall of Fame.
"During the campaign to raise money for the Wall of Fame, I was inspired," Constantine said. "Most of the money was given by former athletes who had established themselves. The wall was built for lettermen by lettermen. One day, several undergraduate swimmers came to see me. They had saved their own money and donated it to help build the wall. It really impressed me to see students who cared so much."
After seeing the dedication of the swimmers, Constantine decided she wanted to give a donation to the Athletic Department, but she wanted her donation to be used to help the swimmers who had inspired her.
"Other sports draw so much attention, and I wanted to give something back to the students who were so willing to give, even though they had to sacrifice to save the money," said Constantine. "I decided I would make a donation to help build Tennessee's new Aquatic Center."
The new Aquatic Center is part of a comprehensive plan for new, renovated and expanded facilities benefiting 17 of UT's 20 men's and women's intercollegiate sports. These improvements are designed to enable UT to continue to compete for SEC and NCAA championships in each of its sports.
For more information about Tennessee's athletic facility renovation plans, or to find out about donating to the University's athletic department, please contact Mike Hamilton or John Currie at (865) 974-1218.