University of Tennessee celebrates 50 years of The Rock

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The University of Tennessee is celebrating 50 years of the Rock, the iconic dolomite stone that’s served as a campus symbol.

For years, people and groups paint the surface of the 97.5 ton chunk of dolomite stone to express opinions, congratulations, support for the various Vols sports teams and other messages. The Rock has included everything from a memorial to Pat Summitt to a patriotic 9/11 tribute. Even wedding proposals and baby announcements have been painted on the Rock.

It started out as just a small portion of rock sticking up from the ground in the lawn of Calvary Baptist Church, which was in the area where Fraternity Park is now located. When UT bought the land and began excavating in 1966, the rock was discovered and the university began the process of selecting a name.

The university says it’s not clear when the tradition of painting the Rock began, it probably dates back to 1980, according to an article in The Daily Beacon. In 2009, when construction plans for the new Student Health Center were announced, the Rock was moved diagonally across the intersection. A huge chunk of paint slid off the rock in summer 2015 due to the heat, meaning the Rock was a blank canvas again for the first time in decades.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Student Government Association is hosting a celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Rock. Cake will be served and spray paint will be on hand.

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