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The Ponder Family’s Legacy of Service and Leadership at UT

While some students might be encouraged to attend the University of Tennessee by parents who are alumni, Isabelle Ponder applied to UT because of her aunts. Attending UT wasn’t on her radar at all but hearing her aunts’ Volunteer pride encouraged her to apply and then attend once she was accepted. 

A sophomore from Georgia, Ponder works as a resident assistant (RA) in Hess Hall and is bearing the torch for a new generation of young women, much like her aunt, Terrie Ponder Watch, did in the late 1970s. Watch, a 1980 alumna, served UT as an RA in Hess Hall and still recalls her time there fondly.

Isabelle Ponder pictured at the front desk of Hess Hall.

Isabelle Ponder works the front desk of Hess Hall as an RA, the same dorm where her aunt, Terrie Ponder Watch served residents nearly four decades prior.

“When we get together around the holidays, my aunt Terrie and I always talk about life at UT and share funny stories of being an RA,” says Ponder. “She loved her time at UT, and I have loved being an RA, too. It’s fun to share about facility challenges or unique situations that RAs experience with someone who understands.” 

Jerry Adams, the director of residence life for University Housing at UT, notes that family ties are a common thread in those who work for housing as RAs. 

“Each year, we tend to see multiple sets of siblings working as RAs or students whose older brothers or sisters served as RAs in prior years,” says Adams. “This is my thirty-fifth year serving in University Housing, and we always see students serving as RAs who want to help others. They put others before themselves. It takes a Volunteer to serve as an RA.” 

It takes a Volunteer to serve as an RA.
– Jerry Adams, Director of Residence Life

Ponder, who is double majoring in psychology and sociology, was a resident in Hess Hall her freshman year and hopes to work as an RA for three years total, from sophomore year until she graduates. 

Hess Hall is the largest residence hall on campus, housing 1,084 students. Despite its size, Ponder notes that “Hess definitely feels like home to me, and my aunt Terrie described experiencing that same homey feeling.” 

The Ponder family legacy of service and leadership as RAs at UT now spans over 40 years in Hess Hall, their home away from home. 

Terrie Ponder in the late 1970s upon graduation

Terrie Ponder Watch pictured after graduation in front of Hess Hall.