New special assistant to the Vice Chancellor: Sewanee’s beloved Coach Shackelford

by Caitlin F. McCarthy

A very involved long-time resident of Sewanee and the head coach of the men’s tennis team for the past 28 seasons, Coach John Shackelford has become a huge part of the community on the mountain. It may come as no surprise then, that when Vice-Chancellor John McCardell was to appoint a new special assistant, Shackelford was at the top of his list.

He may be the most successful men’s coach in the University’s history, but Shackelford’s love for the students and concerns for their well-being expands beyond the tennis courts. Last year, Shackelford was appointed to head a special task force which created the “Re-Think: Respect and Dignity” Campaign. Welcoming this very challenging and much-needed task, Shackelford’s task force included Professors Julie Berebitsky and Doug Williams, seminarian and resident chaplain Whitney Burton, current parent and past president of the Alumni Association Craig Laine (C’78), and students Andrew Carey (C’13) and Devin Loftus (C’13). The goal of this group was to broadly engage the topic of respect in all facets of Sewanee’s community life.

After a very extensive and in-depth look at various campus issues and the fountainhead of these problems, the task force wrote a report full of suggestions to better the community and increase the safety for the students of Sewanee. They completed this report in July, just in time for Shackelford to prepare for the Fall tennis season. Shackelford presided over the composition of this comprehensive and direct report, ensuring that it contained recommendations that would play an imperative role on campus this year. The recommendations proposed to and accepted by McCardell are as follows: hiring a professional health educator, have Title IX training for employees, appointing a Crisis Intervention Counselor, and creating a Sexual Assault Crisis team to be available 24/7.

Furthermore, they involve the students directly by engaging Greek leadership, supporting campus-wide activities dubbed “Cornerstone Projects,” to further bring the community together, encouraging stronger student involvement in conduct processes, and engaging students to explore the possibility of developing a “Community Code” which would coincide with the Honor Code.

After the completion and presentation of this report, McCardell appointed Shackelford as his Special Assistant. This position entails working closely with McCardell as well as being a representative for him, working with a variety of offices and people to implement the recommendations of the ReThink Campaign’s report, appointing people to, and chairing, a “Cornerstone Committee” to plan events throughout the year to facilitate a closer community and articulate to the Sewanee community the continuous results of the various new implementations.

While he is generally known by the Sewanee populace as the happy-go-lucky, genuine, incredibly positive, friendly men’s tennis coach, Shackelford’s love for Sewanee extends far beyond his day-to-day happy demeanor. He is highly committed to making this campus a safer place, not only for his students and team members, but for all students. With four daughters of his own, ranging from junior high to college, Shackelford understands, and deeply values safety for young people.

Tennis fans and players have nothing to fear, however, as this new appointment does not interfere with Shackelford’s coaching. He will continue as men’s head tennis coach; but, he will hire an assistant coach to take on some responsibilities, including intramurals.

The University is making strides and taking these necessary steps in order to make permanent, effective change on the Mountain. Undoubtedly Shackelford’s extraordinary leadership will lead the way through this University-wide challenge.

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