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UTC's Biggest Fan Is Hard to Quiet

Milly Fariss

By Chandra Harris-McCray

Cheering just as loud (maybe even louder) as any of the Mocs cheerleaders, Milly Fariss, outfitted in her version of navy and gold, accessorized with vintage circular Mocs earrings, does not have to do any fancy gymnastic kicks on the sidelines of a basketball game to be seen and heard.

The 84-year-old has been asked on more than one occasion by her adoptive grandchildren to quiet her jubilant shouts during sporting events at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

That is a promise she will never make. It is simply too hard for the 1947 UTC alumna to keep her passion for all things Mocs to herself. She has taken her spirit squad of one on the road to follow the Mocs to basketball tournaments in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

A season basketball ticketholder for more than 30 years, Milly mustered up some off-the-court power moves when she implemented a strategy to transfer lists and lists of printed names of Mocs ticket holders into a digital, more useful format. This was just one of the many tasks she crossed off a hefty to-do list while spending nearly two decades volunteering in the office of UTC Athletics after retiring from a 35-year career as a statistician with Tennessee Valley Authority. Whether it was selling season tickets, manning the box office or mailing brochures, no task was too daunting or mundane for Fariss.

Milly may have given up her desk in the athletics office, but her boundless energy still kicks in when needed. Always arriving on campus carting freshly baked goodies, her efforts and her decadent cookies have not gone unnoticed. On campus she is considered a priceless jewel who deserved to be inducted into the 2007 UTC Athletics Hall of Fame and bestowed with both the UTC Distinguished Service and the Southern Conference Distinguished Service awards.

While grateful for the accolades, her quiet resolve and humble demeanor make it difficult to rant about or even accept recognition awards "for doing something I love, at a place I love."

Having always chosen to do what she loves, it is not surprising that Milly took the road less traveled as a student at UTC and majored in economics instead of joining the footsteps of most female college students who studied teacher education in the mid-1940s. She did not mind being the only woman in most of her math courses.

"UTC offered the best of the three E's—education, entertainment and employment," she said with a soft laugh.

Raised as an only child in Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., Milly described falling in love with "the university and Chattanooga-a friendly town within a bustling city."

A floodgate of "fond memories—riding the trolley cars in the commons area, tea times at the university president's home every Sunday and late-night chats among girlfriends in the dorm-come back to me when I look at different buildings and landmarks throughout campus," she said.

"There is a great history and heritage on campus. I know how the university can influence the lives of students, and I want to do what I can to keep this campus strong for students forever."

Along with her acts of generosity in supporting athletics and the College of Business, Fariss has further invested in the future of UTC through provisions in her will. "I am more than willing to do what I can if it means that a young person can receive an education," she said.

Her contagious fan spirit is at the forefront of academic success at UTC. Whenever she encounters an undergraduate student or any college graduate, she is quick to ask, "Have you considered going for your master's degree?"

"I am a student's biggest fan on the sidelines of a game and in the classroom. My giving will make it possible for students to have access to an education." And that is worth shouting about.

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