In the mid-1970s UT Knoxville began presenting engraved Jefferson Cups in recognition/thanks for such activities as being chair of the Chancellor’s Associates or making the commencement speech. Shortly after Jack Reese became chancellor, he identified a need for some sort of “official gift”—something nice, not extravagant—that could be personalized and that was distinctive.
While visiting the University of Virginia, Chancellor Reese was given a Jefferson Cup, and he learned that in 1810 Thomas Jefferson commissioned a silversmith to make eight cups from his own design—they were just the right size and shape for their intended purpose.
The Walters Life Sciences Building was under construction, and Reese wondered what had been on the site prior to the tennis courts and parking spaces. When informed that the site had been occupied by Jefferson Hall (second of the name), Reese raised the question of what the connection had been between Thomas Jefferson and UT. Upon learning that Thomas Jefferson had first laid out his campus plan for American universities in a letter written to the UT trustees in 1810, Reese made the connection between the design of a campus well suited for its intended purpose and the Jefferson Cup he had been given at UVA. He decided that UT’s “official gift” would be engraved Jefferson Cups.