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University of the South

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University of the South

For Sewanee Academy or Sewanee Military Academy, see St. Andrew's-Sewanee School.
The University of the South
File:The Seal of The University of the South.png
Latin: Universitas Meridiana
Motto Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.
(Latin, from Psalm 133)
Motto in English Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.[1]
Established 1857
Type Private
Religious affiliation Episcopal Church
Endowment USD$246.1 million[2]
Chancellor The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander
Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, Jr.
Undergraduates 1,383
Postgraduates 177
Location Sewanee, TN, USA
Campus Southern Rural, 13,000 acres (40 km²)
Athletics NCAA Division III
24 varsity teams
Nickname Tigers
Affiliations SAA

Sewanee: The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Sewanee, Tennessee, United States. It is owned by 28 southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and its School of Theology is an official seminary of the church. The university's School of Letters offers graduate degrees in American Literature and Creative Writing. The campus (officially called "The Domain" or, affectionately, "The Mountain") consists of 13,000 acres (53 km2)[3] of scenic mountain property atop the Cumberland Plateau, with the developed portion occupying about 1,000 acres (4.0 km2).

The school was ranked 38th in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges.[4] In 2013, Forbes ranked it 91st on its America's Top Colleges list.[5] Sewanee is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South.


On July 4, 1857, delegates from ten dioceses of the Episcopal Church—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—were led up Monteagle Mountain by Bishop Leonidas Polk for the founding of their denominational college for the region. The goal was to create a Southern university free of Northern influences. As one of its founders, Bishop James Otey of Tennessee put it: the new university will "materially aid the South to resist and repel a fanatical domination which seeks to rule over us.".[6] John Armfield, co-owner of Franklin and Armfield—one of the largest slave-trading companies in the USA (buying and selling more than 1000 slaves a year),[7] was by far the most influential in bankrolling the new university. His purchase of the site where the university continues to exist today and his promise of $25,000 per annum far exceeded any other donations and was considered a "princely offer" by a Nashville newspaper. Today, Sewanee downplays this eminent slave trader who played a central role in its establishment.[6]

The six-ton marble cornerstone, laid on October 10, 1860, and consecrated by Bishop Polk, was blown up in 1863 by Union soldiers from an Illinois regiment; many of the pieces were collected and kept as keepsakes by the soldiers. A few were donated back to the university, and a large fragment was eventually installed in a wall of All Saints' Chapel. Several figures later prominent in the Confederacy, notably Bishop-General Leonidas Polk, Bishop Stephen Elliott, and Bishop James Hervey Otey, were significant founders of the university. Generals Edmund Kirby Smith, Josiah Gorgas and Francis A. Shoup were prominent in the university's postbellum revival and continuance.

Because of the damage and disruptions during the Civil War, construction came to a temporary halt. In 1866 building was resumed, and this date is sometimes used as the re-founding of the university and the year from which it has maintained continuous operations (though official materials and anniversary celebrations still use 1857). The university's first convocation was held on September 18, 1868, with nine students and four faculty members present. Confederate hero Robert E. Lee was offered the position of vice-chancellor, but he declined, choosing instead the same position at Washington College in his beloved Virginia. The Rt. Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, Vice Chancellor of the University (Second Bishop of Tennessee and "Chaplain of the Confederacy") attended the first Lambeth Conference in England (1868) and received financial support from clergy and laity of the Church of England, which enabled rebuilding of the school. Quintard is known as the "Re-Founder" of the University of the South.

During World War II, University of the South was one of 131 tertiary institutions nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[8]

Schools of dentistry, engineering, law, medicine, and nursing once existed, and a secondary school was part of the institution into the second half of the twentieth century. However, for financial reasons it was eventually decided to focus on the College and the School of Theology. In June 2006, Sewanee opened its School of Letters, a second graduate school. The School of Letters offers a Master of Arts in American Literature and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.


The Sewanee campus includes many buildings constructed of various materials faced with local stone, most done in the Gothic style.

  • All Saints' Chapel was originally designed by Ralph Adams Cram and began construction in 1904 (replacing the smaller, wooden St. Augustine's Chapel which stood nearby), but the Panic of 1907 left the university without the funds to complete it. It was completed in 1959 to a design by Vice Chancellor Edward McCrady.
McCrady was also responsible for the connection of the buildings of the original quadrangle with cloisters. During his tenure as vice chancellor, the Jesse Ball duPont Library was constructed. Dr. McCrady was determined to fill the plain windows of All Saints' Chapel with stained glass, though many remained without for several years. After his death, a new stained glass window, which includes his image, was dedicated in his memory. The final window was installed in 2004, nearly 100 years after construction began on the chapel.
  • St. Luke's Chapel is one of several on the campus. St. Luke's is located next to the building which formerly housed the School of Theology.
  • The Chapel of the Apostles was designed by the Arkansas architectural firm of the late E. Fay Jones and Maurice J. Jennings for the School of Theology and was dedicated and consecrated in October 2000.[9]
  • Spencer Hall houses the chemistry, biology, and biochemistry departments, as well as components of environmental science. Its completion in late August 2008 provided an additional 49,000 square feet (4,600 m2) to the existing Woods Lab science building. Sustainable building practices and technology were incorporated into Spencer Hall.[10]
  • Snowden Hall houses the Department of Forestry and Geology and components of environmental science. A new 10,000 square foot addition and remodeling of the building was completed in 2010, making this the university's first LEED Gold certified building. 3,000 square feet of solar panels provide about a third of the buildings electricity needs, and a bioswale filters runoff from the roof top.

Name change

The institution has combined its two historical names in all university publications that are not official documents and bills itself as "Sewanee: The University of the South". The Sewanee Graphics Identity Standards Manual, a document reflecting the official policies of the university with respect to its public image, states, in part:

First, it must be understood that the official and legal name of this institution is “The University of the South”. In the past, though, unorganized use of this official name and the University’s familiar name, Sewanee, has been confusing to those unfamiliar with the institution. In addition, college guides and Web sites that have become so crucial in young people’s college searches may list the institution under as many as four different entries—beginning with "The", "University", "South", or "Sewanee".
To avoid confusion and to honor the history and character of the institution, a consistent reference to the name of the institution is critical. So, for extended audiences unfamiliar with the institution, the naming convention "Sewanee: The University of the South" should be used on a first reference. Subsequent references may be to "Sewanee" or "the University".[11]

When this naming system was proposed in 2004, it was misinterpreted by some alumni to reflect a change in the official name of the university. A minor scandal ensued, insinuating that the change was intended to "distance" the university from its historic association with Southern culture.[12][13]

Literary associations

The school has long been known for its literary associations. The Sewanee Review, founded in 1892, is thought to be the longest-running literary magazine in the country and has published and been praised by many distinguished authors. Its success has helped launch the Sewanee Writers' Conference, held each summer. The School of Letters, offering an M.A. in English and M.F.A. in Creative Writing, was established in 2006.

Sewanee has been the residence of authors such as Allen Tate, Andrew Lytle, and William Alexander Percy.

In 1983 playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Tennessee Williams left his literary rights to the University of the South. Royalties have helped build the Tennessee Williams Center, a performance venue and teaching facility, and to create the Tennessee Williams teaching fellowships, which bring well-known figures in the arts to the campus.

"Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum", the University's motto, is taken from the opening of Psalm 133: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."

Environmental sustainability

In the fall of 2008, the University of the South made a public commitment to environmental sustainability during its Sustainability Week, which featured speakers, feasts of local foods, and environmentally themed documentaries. The Sewanee campus is also home to an EcoHouse, and residence halls compete in the Eco-Cup competition each year in an attempt to reduce their energy consumption. In 2007, the University of the South became a signatory to the Presidents Climate Commitment. As of 2011, the university received a "B" on the College Sustainability Report Card.[14]

Institutional traditions

The school is rich in distinctive traditions, many of which are tied to Southern culture. For example, male students have always worn coats and ties to classes—this tradition has generally been continued, though the coat and tie are often combined with casual pants and sometimes shorts. Faculty and student members of the primary honor society and main branch of student government, the Order of Gownsmen, may wear academic gowns to teach or attend class—perhaps the last vestige of this historically English practice in North America.[12] Furthermore, the Order is charged with the maintenance of this and other traditions of the university.[15] Similarly, both genders enjoy drinking clubs, including The Highlanders and The Wellingtons, Silver Seven, Molly Pitcher, The Beefeaters, and ribbon societies continue to thrive. At major events, members of the former two groups display their distinctive ceremonial garb, kilts and cloaks, respectively. In addition, there are number of Ribbon Societies, secret social clubs, that, for men, have membership based on academic honors. For women, membership based on sociality. There is the Red Ribbon and Green Ribbon Societies for men (including membership in the faculty) and the Pink Ribbon and White Ribbon for women. The vice chancellor on formal occasions assumes the cappa clausa cope as the vice chancellor at Cambridge University still does.

The University Honor Code is one of the most cherished traditions since the University's inception. The Honor Code states that "I will not lie, cheat, or steal" along with a number of amended premises such as a toleration clause for academic offenses (it is a violation of the Honor Code to not report cheating), and other specifics meant to guide the student body. Each new student entering the University must sign the Honor Code at a formal service in All Saints Chapel at the induction of new students. The Honor Code and System is administered by a student-run, student-elected Honor Council. The Council consists of four seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman, elected by their respective classes. Three members are elected Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary in a private election by the Council members. The purpose of the Honor Council is to administer the system. This includes investigating and hearing infractions of the Code and enforcing penalties as prescribed by the Code. After formal hearings conducted by the Council, students who are found to have violated the Code with an academic violation must leave Sewanee for typically 2 semesters, or, 12 months. In the Council's discretion, the penalty can only be lowered to at least a 1 semester suspension. Students who are found to have violated the Code with a non-academic violation (lying in non academic form, stealing) typically must leave Sewanee for 2 semesters as well; however, in the Council's discretion, probationary measures may be granted to allow the student to remain at the University. Only the Vice-Chancellor (President of the University) may overturn a decision through an appeals process. Although the Honor Council was once governed by the Order of Gownsmen, the Honor Council is now an independent body, whose procedures and rules are the sole governance. The Associate Dean of the College is the faculty advisor to the Council as well as the University's General Counsel.

The Honor Code reflects the primal purpose of Sewanee in the promotion of community, moral awareness, and academic/ social distinction as established by the founders of the University.[16]

Modern traditions include the Festival of Lessons and Carols in early December, an imitation of the traditional Christmas service in Cambridge. Also, local mythology regarding angels is abundant; residents of the Domain tap the roofs of their cars as they pass through the stone gates in order to "get their angel" for protection in their travels. Numerous other traditions continue to flourish on the mountain, many adapted to fit modern practices.

In recent years, some alumni and students have perceived that the school was trying to downplay the university's traditions, particularly its historical and cultural ties with Southern culture.[12][13] As a result, some traditions have come under special scrutiny.

Mace controversy

The University mace, an unsolicited gift dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest which prominently featured a Confederate battle flag, has been a point of interest in the debate over the university's identity, because of its association with Forrest and its implications for attitudes toward African-Americans. Forrest had no connection with the university;[12] the mace had been commissioned in 1964 by Louise Claiborne-Armstrong, whose brother attended the university.

It was given to the university in 1965 and was carried by the President of the Order of Gownsmen at academic processions until it disappeared in 1997. Upon its rediscovery, various alumni offered to pay for the mace's repair but the university declined their offer.[12] This mace is now available for private viewing via the school's archives.

University hymn and alma mater

The University Hymn, written by Bishop Thomas Frank Gailor (1856–1935), is sung to the tune of Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (The Emperor's Hymn, known in English language hymnals as "Austria"), by Joseph Haydn.[17] The tune was previously used for the Austrian national anthem and a variation is used for Germany's national anthem.

God of Light, Whose face beholding,

Israel's Leader learned Thy Will,
Fire and storm the Rock enfolding,
Where the Voice was calm and still,
Give Thy Children on this Mountain
Grace and power Thy Truth to know;
Open here a living fountain,
Whence Thy Praise shall ever flow.

On the world now grows the Vision
Love of Country—Freedom's call;
Gage of Battle, Life's decision,
Faith will see the Christ through all.
Clearer, surer, rings the story,
"Christ our Brother—God Most High!
Through earth's vapors sweeps the glory,
Wrong, injustice, sin must die."

For the warfare train us, Father,
God of battles, God of might,
That no mists of Hell may gather,
Darken or obscure the right.
Gird our souls with Thy compassion,
Purge our minds with fire divine;
Light of Light, the Truth incarnate,

Make our lives and thoughts like Thine.

Alma Mater, written by Newton Middleton (Class of 1909)

Alma Mater, Sewanee
My Glorious Mother ever be.
I will give my All to Thee
God Bless Thee to Eternity.

Thou canst make me worth the while
O Guide and Shelter me.
And all my life, through Storm and Strife,
My Star Thou'lt be.

School of Theology

The School of Theology at the University of the South was founded in 1878. Originally it was known as "St. Luke's" because it was housed in St. Luke's Hall, which was given by Charlotte Morris Manigault to the University specifically for a School of Theology. This building hosted the first meeting of what would become the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists under the guidance of Dr. Arthur Ben Chitty, the Historiographer of the University.

Following the merger of the Sewanee Academy with St. Andrew's School, located a few miles from Sewanee, in 1981, the School of Theology moved to the former SA campus. Because this new location was a mile away from St. Luke's Chapel (west of the campus proper), seminarians worshiped in a converted classroom (affectionately known as "the Pit") until a new chapel was constructed adjacent to the school in 2000.[18]

The School of Theology is one of the eleven seminaries officially connected with the Episcopal Church. Further, it is the only one located within the Southeastern U.S. proper, the only other Southern seminaries being located at geographical fringes of the region, Virginia Theological Seminary near Washington, D.C., and the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Historically, its position within Anglicanism is generally considered to fall within the parameters of the southern High Church tradition, whereas Virginia was seen as the seminary in the southern Low Church tradition.


The Sewanee Tigers were pioneers in American intercollegiate athletics and possessed the South's preeminent football program in the 1890s. Their 1899 football team had perhaps the best season in college football history, winning all 12 of their games, 11 by shutout, and outscoring their opponents 322-10. Five of those wins, all shutouts, came in a six-day period while on a 2,500-mile (4,000 km) trip by train. Ten of their twelve opponents, including all five of their road trip victims, remain major college football powers to this day.[19]

Sewanee was a charter member of the Southeastern Conference upon its formation in 1932, but by this time its athletic program had declined precipitously and Sewanee never won a conference football game in the eight years it was an SEC member. The Tigers were shut out 26 times in their 37 SEC games, and were outscored by a combined total of 1163–84.[19]

When vice chancellor Benjamin Ficklin Finney, who had reportedly objected to Sewanee joining the SEC, left his position in 1938, the leading candidate was Alexander Guerry, a former president of the University of Chattanooga. According to a university historian, Guerry agreed to come to Sewanee only if the school stopped awarding athletic scholarships. In 1940, two years after Guerry's arrival, Sewanee withdrew from the SEC and subsequently deemphasized varsity athletics. Guerry's stance is sometimes credited as an early step toward the 1973 creation of NCAA Division III, which prohibits athletic scholarships.[19]

Sewanee went on to become a charter member of the College Athletic Conference in 1962. The conference, now the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), consists of small, academically-focused private schools such as Sewanee.[20] Illustrating this focus, as of 2009, 27 Sewanee student-athletes had received the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship for academic excellence since the program's inception in 1964.

Sewanee is now a member of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA),[21] offering 11 varsity sports for men and 13 for women. As with the SEC and SCAC, Sewanee is a charter member of its current conference—it was one of the seven SCAC members that announced their departure from that conference at the 2011 annual meeting of SCAC presidents.[20] The seven were joined by Berry College, another small private school in Georgia.[20]

Noted alumni and faculty

Please see link to article above for a comprehensive list of notable alumni. Sewanee has over 12,000 alumni from all 50 states and 40 countries and has produced 26 Rhodes Scholars—a number that puts Sewanee in the top four nationally among American liberal arts colleges—as well as 26 NCAA Postgraduate Fellows, 36 Watson Fellowships, and dozens of Fulbright Scholars. The School of Theology's alumni include countless bishops, including three of the last five presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church.[22]

See also


External links

  • Official website
  • Official athletics website
  • Official student newspaper
  • Sewanee's On-Line History Museum

Coordinates: 35°12′12″N 85°55′11″W / 35.20344°N 85.91967°W / 35.20344; -85.91967

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