Jan. 5, 2011
University of Tennessee Lady Vol Basketball Coach Pat Summitt was the first person honored with a star on the new Riverwalk of Fame during a ceremony on Volunteer Landing today at 11:30 a.m.
Mayor Bill Haslam, in one of his final official acts as the Knoxville mayor before moving cross-state to become the Tennessee governor, was on hand to honor Summitt.
The Riverwalk of Fame - which will stretch along Volunteer Landing - will salute people from Knoxville and the surrounding area who have made a great mark nationally or internationally and in doing so, brought honor to East Tennessee. The honorees can range from writers, musicians, actors, athletes and coaches to scientists, astronauts, statesmen and others of note.
It's anticipated that there will be one ceremony annually at which up to three people would be inducted into the Riverwalk of Fame. Summitt, however, will be the only person honored during this initial ceremony.
Mayor Haslam made the announcement that Summitt would honored after she won her 1,000th game as the Lady Volunteers coach on February 5, 2009.
Each person on the Riverwalk will be honored with a large star that will include their name as well as a small, but significant, symbol of what that person did that made a difference in people's lives. In Summitt's case it will be a basketball.
"We're all proud of Pat Summitt and always happy to have an opportunity to let her know how much she means to us," Haslam said. "She's a great choice to be the person honored with this first star on the Riverwalk."
Susan Richardson Williams approached the City of Knoxville in 2009 with the concept of a Riverwalk of Fame honoring accomplished individuals from Knoxville and East Tennessee. She also suggested to both the city and the University of Tennessee that Summitt would be a great first honoree.
The city's has created a committee and developed criteria for selecting future honorees for the Riverwalk that will include substantial input from the public.
Summitt was a 21-year-old senior at the University of Tennessee-Martin when she was offered the UT job in the spring of 1974. Less than a year later she directed UT to a 69-32 win over Middle Tennessee State University on January 10, 1975, for her first win as the Lady Vols coach. At the time she was also attending graduate school, teaching a full load of classes and getting ready to play for the United States in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Since then her UT teams have won eight NCAA Women's Basketball Championships, she coached the U.S. Women's Basketball Team to the 1984 Olympic gold medal and all of her players who have completed their eligibility at UT have earned their degrees.