A (very) little Italy: The Italian House and Dr. Douglas Paschall

By Lily Davenport

Two doors down from the German House, a newly renovated home will soon house seven students of Italian. The renovations took place during the summer, following a gift from an anonymous donor in honor of the late Dr. Douglas Paschall (C’66), alum and Professor of English at Sewanee. According to the August 2013 issue of Sewanee Enews, the donor “wishes other alumni would consider honoring the faculty and staff who were important in their lives as students.”

Although Sewanee currently has no Italian major or minor, it is still possible to take an array of language- and culture-based courses in the subject, ranging from “Elementary Italian: Intensive Course” to “Being Good in Medieval and Renaissance Italy.”

Kate Reed, assistant director of Residential Life, hopes that, like other theme houses, the Italian House will “help engage our upperclass students who want to embrace ideas or subjects in their day-today living,” adding that “it gives residential life a way of supporting that academic area.”

Aside from benefiting the Italian Department, the House honors a man who, according to a 1996 article by E. Thomas Wood in Nashville Life, came to Sewanee on a football scholarship before becoming a Rhodes Scholar and returning to Sewanee to teach. Although Paschall was often described as a Renaissance man, Wood writes that “he often made his greatest classroom impression as a Shakespearean. He demonstrated encyclopedic knowledge of the Bard’s plays and sonnets, and of the Elizabethan environment from which they sprang.”

In 1987, Paschall accepted an offer to become headmaster of Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy. He served there until 1993, earning a reputation as a compassionate and erudite reformer who brought diversity to the school and strengthened its arts program. Paschall died in late 1994, after a yearlong struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Paschall may not have taught Italian, but the house renovated in his name certainly honors his many contributions to Sewanee. As Dr. Maggie Fritz-Morkin, Professor of Italian, put it, “the Paschall House will be a tremendous resource for Italian students and the department as well, a place where we can gather in a non-academic setting to explore our passion for the Bel Paese.”

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