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Like you Jack I graduated in the early 1980s and do not recall anyone ever talking about "the Rock." It was just sort of there, in the background, much like a tree or sidewalk on campus.
An overlooked but iconic image of the UT campus is the footbridge that spans Cumberland across from Strong Hall with "The University of Tennessee" set into its concrete sides. For two years I walked this bridge from Clement Hall to class and other parts of campus. Various banners related to sports, protests, or clubs were hung from it.
The newer footbridge farther east which spans The Hill and the other side of Cumberland has the potential to become an icon also, especially when looking east towards the bridge as it frames downtown Knoxville in the distance.
Another iconic view was the lit-up orange letters atop Neyland Stadium at night, facing the Tennessee River, as viewed from the balcony of the Communications Building.
Volunteer Landing is certainly unique among major colleges and universities around the US.
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